Meals on Wheels San Diego County Receives $4 Million Gift from Venture Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Gift will enable 60 year-old nonprofit to solve the problems of the future in relation to food scarcity, senior isolation, and technology

SAN DIEGO (December 16, 2020) — Meals on Wheels San Diego County, a local nonprofit that focuses on supporting the independence and well-being of seniors, received a $4 million gift from American novelist, billionaire, and venture philanthropist, MacKenzie Scott. Meals on Wheels San Diego County is one of 384 nonprofit organizations throughout the United States who collectively received $4.2 billion from Scott. According to her official Dec. 15, 2020 announcement, Scott and a team of advisors “took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”

“It has been such a critical year for seniors in our community who not only rely on us for a hot meal, but also a wellness check,” says Brent Wakefield, president and CEO, Meals on Wheels San Diego County. “Now it’s more important than ever to support our seniors locally, regionally, and nationally who are facing illnesses, food insecurity, social isolation, and loneliness, especially during this time of year. We’re proud, humbled, and thrilled to be named one of the donation recipients chosen by MacKenzie Scott and hope this sparks inspiration in foundations everywhere to focus their donations on seniors, a rapidly growing population.”

The $4 million gift from MacKenzie Scott is the second largest gift for Meals on Wheels San Diego County in its 60-year history. Read Scott’s full statement on the awards here, which includes the entire list organizations that received funding.

Meals on Wheels San Diego County has increased meal deliveries by 47 percent this year

For six decades, Meals on Wheels San Diego County has fought malnutrition and loneliness, two of the biggest threats to the well-being of homebound seniors. The organization’s over 3,000 volunteers provide much more than meals; they ensure homebound seniors are OK.

Since social distancing restrictions took effect, Meals on Wheels San Diego County has seen a 47 percent increase in the number of older adults receiving home-delivered meals and other services. The organization currently serves more than 2,000 clients each month. Meals on Wheels San Diego County needs more volunteers to meet this demand—and to provide a critical link to more support for isolated seniors.

“Receiving this gift from MacKenzie Scott has come right at the critical moment we are beginning to build our strategic plan for the next few years. This gift will allow us to begin to solve the problems of the future in relation to food scarcity, senior isolation, and technology,” says Antoinette Middleton, president of the Board of Trustees, Meals on Wheels San Diego County.

Experts predict that the growth of the U.S. population age 65 and up will increase by 72 percent from 2010 to 2030, and organizations like Meals on Wheels San Diego County will need the resources to manage the needs of this ever-growing demographic. Currently, there are more than 532,000 seniors in San Diego County over the age of 65, and by 2050, there will be an estimated 930,000 older adults living in our region. “Only two percent of foundations in our country support older adult causes,” says Wakefield. “Scott’s gift to our organization is a call to action for others to expand their philanthropic giving to assist organizations like Meals on Wheels San Diego County so they can continue to support seniors aging successfully.”

Federal government data shows that up to 16 percent of Americans older than 65—and even more of those in hospitals or other institutions— are at high risk for malnutrition. According to the AARP, more than eight million older adults are affected by isolation, and the physical health risks are detrimental. Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Studies have even suggested a link between isolation and increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Frequently, a Meals on Wheels San Diego County volunteer may be the only person our clients see all day, providing human contact and a safety net of compassion and conversation, particularly for those seniors living alone, means the world to the organization's seniors.

Seniors are at serious risk of major illness and complications from COVID-19, creating an even greater need for home-delivered, nutritious meals. The need for social distancing has also cut many more older adults off from their family and support networks, making them vulnerable to the negative health effects of isolation. Lives are saved nearly every week because a Meals on Wheels San Diego County volunteer called the proper emergency personnel for someone who has fallen, had a stroke, or simply needs additional resources. Meals on Wheels San Diego County also provides meals for disabled veterans of any age, caretakers, and even dogs and cats of their clients.

“Scott’s announcement was a complete surprise, and we are humbled she believes in investing in us and our future to sustain the agency's critical work to support more seniors in San Diego County,” says Wakefield.

For more information on how to get involved with Meals on Wheels San Diego County, visit meals-on-wheels.org.

About Meals on Wheels San Diego County

The impact Meals on Wheels has on the seniors they serve goes far beyond the wholesome meals provided. Daily friendly contact provides important socialization for those who may be isolated with little or no connection to the outside world. Lives are often saved in the course of delivering meals when a person does not respond to a knock on the door, has fallen, or may have become ill. For 60 years, Meals on Wheels San Diego County has contributed to the overall well-being of seniors by providing regular nutrition and daily contact with a caring volunteer. Learn more at www.meals-on-wheels.org or call 800.5.SENIOR.

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