To help highlight the growing needs of Charleston’s elderly, Mayor Joe Riley spent about an hour Monday delivering meals to home-bound seniors.

A larger elderly population, stemming from the beginning of the retirement of the baby boom generation and overall increase in life spans, creates a “challenge to the community,” the mayor said after delivering a warm lunch to AnnaBell Judge at 202 Nassau St. on the city’s East Side.

Riley delivered the meals with Charleston Area Senior Citizens, which runs the Meals on Wheels program.

Sandra Clair, executive director of Charleston Area Seniors, said that for the first time the group is appealing directly to the public to help raise money for its meals program. She said the public plea is necessary because of the lingering economic downturn and because of increasing demand.

Meals on Wheels serves 425 meals a day in the metro area day on average and has a waiting list of up to 300. She said it’s sad to think about all of those people going hungry.

Meals on Wheels just released a nationwide study that ranked South Carolina as having the 8th highest percentage of elderly in fear of hunger, almost one in five.

Doug Pardue is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter and a member of The Post and Courier's projects team. Before joining this newspaper, he served as investigations editor at USA Today, The Tampa Tribune and The State (Columbia, SC)