For the 15th year in a row, the Osceola Council on Aging will host its highly anticipated March for Meals St. Patrick’s 5K Run/Walk event.

The fundraiser, which began in 2006 to support the council’s Meals on Wheels program, will again be sponsored by the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA), and held Saturday, March 13, at Kissimmee Lakefront Park, 201 Lakeview Drive in Kissimmee.

March for Meals, one of the council’s annual fundraisers was created to raise awareness of senior hunger in the Osceola community, while supporting our Meals on Wheels assistance initiatives. The mission in hosting March for Meals continues to be concurrent with that of previous years, to feed those in our community who are unable to prepare and feed themselves, our necessities and obligations have continued to evolve based on the ever-changing socio-economic needs of the Osceola community.

Due to this recent pandemic, last year’s March for Meals event was canceled so all related fundraising efforts were immediately halted; in the meantime, an increase in Osceola seniors needing meal assistance increased. Similarly, a new survey conducted by Meals on Wheels America revealed that the county’s increased meal assistance needs are comparable to that of the national program. Across the country, Meals on Wheels are serving nearly 47 percent more seniors than that of March 1, 2020, when concerns over the contagiousness of COVID-19 came to light and social distancing began taking hold. The survey also found 97-percent of local Meals on Wheels programs have seen costs exponentially rise due to needing the acquired safety supplies to protect volunteers when delivering meals.

The Meals on Wheels America program supports more than 5,000 communities across our country, with Osceola County being one of those larger communities serving 25,000 to 30,000 meals each month; with an estimation of nearly 5 million meals having been served to Osceola residents since the program’s inception. With these numbers, one can see the program is an expansive and costly undertaking. With the increased obligation for services throughout our community, the council’s fundraising events are more important than ever for the continued success of Meals on Wheels and our community nutrition programs for our Senior population.

Similarly, we are in a constant effort to recruit volunteers to support our Meals on Wheels initiatives. At this point, we have well over 150 volunteers including Realtors from the Osceola Association of Realtors, the Solivita Group as well as the Rotary Club of Kissimmee West, to name a few. These volunteers are invaluable to the program and our residents. However, we are in need of additional volunteers to cover needed Meals on Wheels delivery routes.

Above all, the Meals on Wheels teams who support us locally, and the thousands of volunteers across the country are on the front lines each day, focused on doing all they can to keep our elder Americans who are confined to their homes and unable to prepare their own meals, stay safe and nourished. So please support our annual March for Meals St. Patrick’s 5K Run/Walk event. Anyone can participate by walking individually, with your family, or even putting a team together to help raise awareness and fight Senior hunger in the Osceola community.

To register, go to www.osceolagenerations.org, or call 407-847-2144. Registration for the event will begin at 6:30 a.m. with start time scheduled for 7:30 a.m. The event will also offer virtual options for those uncomfortable participating in large crowds. Finally, all 2020 event registrations will be honored for this year’s Run/Walk event. For 2020 event registrants, go to our Eventbrite page at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-march-for-mealsst-patricks-5k-runwalk-registration-75868860805.

Finally, the Osceola Council on Aging has been working closely with local officials on increased safety protocols for the event due to COVID-19. Those guidelines can be found at the bottom of the page at: https://osceolagenerations.org/march-for-meals/.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/
Published Wednesday, March 3, 2021