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Gibson delivers to seniors on national 'Mayors for Meals' day

Date: 3/29/2011

March 30, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD — He had to come back for the desserts — "I've been told that's the best part," he said — but that seemed the only glitch as Mayor Edward Gibson started his route as a Meals on Wheels driver on March 23.

Gibson volunteered to participate in this arm of the nationally based senior nutrition program as part of the Meals on Wheels Association of America's (MOWAA) annual Mayors for Meals campaign. According to information on the MOWAA Web site, Gibson and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno were the only Western Massachusetts elected officials to participate in this effort to raise local awareness of senior hunger issues.

The one-day event was part of MOWAA's March for Meals campaign, which celebrates the month the renown program became a part of the Older Americans Act. It also spotlights the ongoing need to improve nutrition for America's elders.

The goal of the campaign is to end senior hunger nationwide by 2020. According to a groundbreaking 2008 report on senior hunger in America, Massachusetts ranked 39th in the country in hunger issues for its over-60 population for the years 2001 through 2007.

Senior Center Director Laurie Cassidy accompanied Gibson on his abbreviated route, during which he delivered the day's offering — turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy and butternut squash — to five clients. Paul Trinque, a two-year Meals on Wheels volunteer driver who filled his two carriers just before the mayor arrived, said he was scheduled to deliver 40 meals during his approximately three-hour shift.

"I love meeting with the people and spending a few minutes each day," said Trinque, who delivers meals Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the center.

Gibson said he's seen the positive effects of the program within his own family. His widowed mother-in-law, who is now 83, is a Meals on Wheels client. She's the one, he said, who told him how important the desserts are.

"Individuals who live alone may not cook for themselves," Gibson noted. "They may not get the vegetables or well-rounded meals they need."

"[Meals on Wheels] is a way to get nutritious meals to our elders who may nor be getting enough," he added.

Beyond the nutrition, Gibson said the Meals on Wheels program provides something just as essential for an elder's overall health social contact. "Especially for those individuals who might not be able to drive . it gives them someone to talk to," he said, adding that drivers are also in a position to check up on their client's "health and wellness" during daily visits.

Cassidy said the center provides "upwards of 200 meals a day" Monday through Friday through its Meals on Wheels and on-site dining program, all prepared by the center's cook Connie Viviano and served by volunteers such as Becky Murdzia, who helped pack the meals Gibson delivered last Thursday morning.

Cassidy said the center's nutrition program is always looking for donations to help defray meal costs. Interested individuals should make checks payable to: Meals on Wheels and send them c/o 128 Park St., West Springfield, MA 01089.

For more information on the West Springfield Meals on Wheels program, call 263-3264 or 263-3265.

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