The ability to go out and get food is something most people take for granted, but most of Citymeal’s recipients do not have that luxury, said Citymeals-on-Wheels Founding Executive Director Marcia Stein.
On Thursday, the organization made its 50 millionth food delivery to 70-year-old Florence, a former schoolteacher, in Manhattan. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Dec. 11 “Citymeals-on-Wheels-Day,” according to a press release.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also declared the day “Citymeals-on-Wheels Appreciation Day” in the Borough of Manhattan.
New York City is home to nearly a million seniors, and over half live alone or with only one other senior, according to a 2013 Center for Urban Future report. As seniors age alone, many do not have the means to provide nutritional meals for themselves on a daily basis.
More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80, 23 percent are over 90, and 200 of the seniors are at least 100 years old. Many are chronically disabled, with conditions like vision loss, arthritis, heart disease, and trouble walking.
The organization delivers weekend, holiday, and emergency meals to 18,000 frail New Yorkers every year.
On Christmas 33 years ago, then-restaurant critic Gael Greene founded Citymeals. Greene, now the board chair, had read a news piece that reported homebound elderly would not receive meal deliveries on weekends and holidays.
Greene was outraged, and called up all her friends in the food world.
Renowned chef James Beard joined Greene to raise $35,000 to spend on Christmas meals for these vulnerable New Yorkers. Greene then contacted Janet Sainer, then the commissioner of the Department for the Aging, who turned the funds into 6,000 delivered meals.
Now the group has 19,000 volunteers and has expanded its initiatives to include programs like visits to the elderly, mobile food pantries, and programs to address malnutrition. Over 70 percent of the recipients live alone, 40 percent rarely or never leave their homes, and about 10 percent have no one to talk to.
“Thirty-three years ago, I picked up my phone and dialed the Department for the Aging to express outrage that in a city of such abundance, we could not care for our elderly neighbors in need, especially at the holidays,” Greene stated in a press release.
“Never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated that this single phone call would spark a revolution, leading to the delivery of 50 million meals and the creation of this wonderful organization.”
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated Florence was a resident of Brooklyn. Florence was born in Brooklyn but now resides in Manhattan. Epoch Times regrets this error.