Our annual DTE Energy Foundation Holidays Meals is one of the most highly anticipated events in the community. Our goal was to provide 3,000 meals to both Meals on Wheels and Lunch & Activity Centers participants. We far surpassed the goal by serving 3,402 holiday meals!
What is this event?
In partnership with DTE Energy Foundation, Senior Resources of West Michigan, Adult & Aging Services Agency (AASA), Muskegon County Senior Millage (MCSM), CALL 2-1-1 and other community partners, the annual event took place on Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Muskegon, Oceana and Ottawa Counties. This interactive event brought together a diverse population of older adults, volunteers and team members, to celebrate the holidays with healthy food and social connection. The 2021 holiday menu was cranberry brie stuffed chicken breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, applesauce, Prince Charles vegetables (Green beans, carrots and wax beans), couscous salad (new for 2021!), dinner roll and butter and cheesecake.
Why is this event important?
Meals on Wheels America (MOWA) reported that 24% of Michigan’s population are adults 60 years and older. Of those, 44% live alone, 19% of older adult couples lack income to pay for basic needs and 27% face some sort of food insecurity. Narrowing to our three service counties, the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) reported 15.9% of Muskegon County residents, 19.7% of Oceana County residents and 14% of Ottawa County residents are 65 and older. These residents come from all ethnicities, socio-economic levels, genders, communities (such as urban and rural), cultures, languages and races. The event provides a festive meals that is healthy and easy to access.
In addition to challenges and barriers faced by older adults every day, we know that the lack of social connectedness and increased feelings of loneliness have only grown. The 2021 CHNA shared that 42% of Muskegon County survey respondents reported feeling lonely directly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, social isolation and feelings of loneliness experienced by older adults to 56% in spring 2020 from 27% in 2018. Even though the event has looked different the last two years, we were able to have in-person Lunch & Activity Centers holiday meals.
We can’t host this event without the support and enthusiasm received from not only our funders, but also our community. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The DTE Energy Foundation Holiday Meals event is a prime example of the importance and impact of meals, motion and morale. We look forward to December 2022!
About the Author
Jennifer Jordan is the AgeWell Services Grants & Contracts Senior Manager.