Reaching seniors in need
I first learned of the Senior Food Mobile model as a way to reach food insecure senior citizens in Oklahoma about a year ago when I attended Feeding America’s Agency Capacity, Programs & Nutrition Conference. I was so inspired that I came back and started sharing the story of how it worked and what we would need to bring the program to Maine with our team here at Good Shepherd Food Bank. Thanks to the generosity of Kennebunk Savings Bank Foundation, we were able to host our first Senior Food Mobile at Sunset Towers in Sanford last week.
More than 150 senior citizens from York County participated, each receiving a box of groceries selected by our staff nutritionist to be as healthy for the unique dietary needs of seniors as possible. Among the foods distributed were kale, mangoes, tomatoes, blueberries, shelf stable milk, meats, breads, and yogurts. In addition to the food distribution, the seniors also participated in demonstrations and were served samples from our Cooking Matters program, learned about local resources from Caring Unlimited and the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging, and had an opportunity to apply for the Partners For a Hunger Free York County’s Farm Fresh Foods for Seniors Program.
I was very blessed to have the opportunity to chat with the seniors and get to know them as they waited in line and snacked on samples of freshly prepared kale. While every senior was unique and interesting, their stories were alarmingly similar – their incomes are fixed, their food stamps have been cut, they’ve worked hard their whole lives and now they face health and transportation challenges that get in the way of getting enough to eat. One lady told me, while thanking all of us involved in the distribution,
“We recently had our food stamps cut down by $120. Our income hasn’t gone up at all, so it’s been tough. But we have to eat, and programs like this are a big help.”
Unfortunately, stories like the ones I heard at our Senior Food Mobile distribution are all too common, as nearly one in three Americans age 65 or older live in low income households. Since Maine is the oldest state in the nation, it’s more important than ever that we take an active role in caring for our elderly neighbors. We are so grateful that Kennebunk Savings Bank Foundation and the Partners For A Hunger Free York County have joined forces with the Food Bank so that the Senior Food Mobile can visit low income senior housing complexes and other sites where seniors congregate. Thanks to this collaboration, we will deliver nutritious food to our elderly neighbors in York County every single month from July 2012 to June 2013!