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Residents to participate in hunger march
Barbara Randolph, left, Gillian Chavarria, center, and Corey Richardson prepare meals Tuesday for the Hall County Meals on Wheels program. Gainesville residents will be among those participating in a march tonight to raise awareness about senior hunger. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville residents will be among hundreds who march across Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta tonight to raise awareness for senior hunger.

The event, called "Turning the Tables on Hunger," is organized by the Meals On Wheels Association of America.

The organization will be using the march to work toward its goal of ending senior hunger by 2020.

Meals On Wheels is a program that provides hot meals for home-bound senior citizens.

According to a recent Meals on Wheels study, Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for senior citizens at risk of hunger.

"I don't think people in any of the states of our top 10 states realize that it's such a problem," said Michael Flynn, director of communications for the Meals On Wheels Association of America. "We want to let everyone in Georgia know, let everyone in the world know, that it's a big problem that needs attention. It's something we have to do, there's not enough awareness out there."

According to the study, about 8.5 percent of Georgia's seniors are at risk of hunger. There are a number of factors that contribute. Though poverty plays a role, only 38 percent of seniors at risk of hunger have incomes below the federal poverty line.

"We thought it'd be a good time to shine some light on an example of a state in our top 10 list who has too many hungry seniors," Flynn said.

During the organization's march against senior hunger, many participants will be holding up tablecloths full of signatures. The signatures represent Meals On Wheels supporters who have taken a pledge to back Meals On Wheels in its efforts to end senior hunger.

Flynn said Meals On Wheels hopes to gain support from individuals, government and corporations to reach its goal.

"Our programs across the country are always in need of
volunteers," Flynn said. "It's not just about the nutritious meals. They also need companionship. Sometimes the Meals On Wheels volunteer is the only person they see the entire day."

The programs also need financial contributions.

"Anecdotally we can tell you that a lot of our programs across the country saw a drop in donations with the economic downturn," Flynn said.

The Meals On Wheels program at the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center has struggled with reduced funding this year.

The center cut Saturday deliveries to 115 clients in its Meals on Wheels program and has indefinitely clamped down on the program's waiting list. But the need is there - officials estimate it could reach 200 to 300 by next year.


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