VINTON, Va. (WFXR) — With food costs continuing to rise, many people on fixed incomes are struggling to eat in southwest Virginia.

The Local Office on Aging (LOA) is making sure seniors don’t go hungry through the ‘Meals on Wheels‘ campaign, which delivers food to homebound people ages 60 and older in Alleghany County, Botetourt County, Craig County, Roanoke County, Covington, Roanoke City, and Salem.

According to the LOA, the demand for their services is high right now for seniors who may have health or financial issues.

“I don’t cook much. I can’t cook much,” said Rick Long, a senior citizen in the Roanoke Valley.

Long is one of the many people who receives food deliveries from the LOA. When he gets that knock on his door, it brightens his day.

“I call most of them my sunshine people. They come in and holler at me and talk to me,” said Long.

For Long, the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program is a necessity to get through hard times.

Over the past year, the LOA says the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis have highlighted the difficulty of seniors getting healthy meals.

“That one hot meal many times is the only hot meal during the day that they’re going to get. It’s also sometimes for many of them the only social contact they’re going to get,” Ron Boyd, president of the LOA.

The nonprofit organization says it has delivered more than 120,000 hot lunches and frozen meals to the frail and homebound.

Meanwhile, the demand for the deliveries is growing, with the LOA saying it has a waiting list of people trying to get in the program.

On Tuesday, May 24, Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) — who is currently on his 15th year volunteering for the ‘Meals on Wheels’ Vinton route — helped deliver the meals.

”Sometimes they are forgotten, and here we are trying to do our best through our local LOA and my local Kiwanis Club,” said Rasoul.

According to the LOA, seniors are struggling with both the physical and mental health effects of stress and isolation isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, this age group accounts for 18% of all suicides, the National Council on Aging reports.

Amid this growing need for caregivers, the LOA is asking for more volunteers to help bring smiles to seniors’ faces. If you are interested in helping older adults have easy access to healthy meals, you can learn more about volunteering by visiting the LOA’s website or calling 540-345-0451.