Senior Hunger in Central California
written by Jacqueline Burke, Special Programs Coordinator
COVID-19 required drastic changes to the way food is distributed in our community to keep everyone involved both healthy and safe. Congregate meal services were postponed or canceled, and walk-up distributions morphed into drive-thrus in order to maintain safety. Though these measures help keep us safe and healthy, many of us now rely on technology and transportation to provide food; two major barriers among seniors in accessing food and services.
Seniors aged 60 and older make up 16.5% of the population in Fresno County and are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity (U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2018). The Fresno metropolitan region has the third worst food hardship rate in the United States at 22% (Food Research and Action Center, 2018). Here at Central California Food Bank, we have focused on creating programs to reach this target population and ensure our seniors have access to food relief.
Through our Groceries2Go program, we have connected over 3,050 seniors (60+) with food through pickup appointments and delivery services! Groceries2Go provides eggs, tortillas, cheese, fresh produce, shelf-stable essentials like rice, cooking oil, cereal, beans, and canned vegetables, and other items as available twice in a 30-day period to anyone in the community. We have also partnered with agencies in our network that primarily serve seniors to distribute boxes weekly to seniors they know are at risk.
We know that many of our seniors live with chronic diet-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. In an effort to provide nutritious meals to seniors living with these conditions, we have partnered with community organizations to distribute heart-healthy boxes, packed with whole grains and no-sodium added canned vegetables, and fresh produce to vulnerable seniors.
We are proud to work with our agency network and community partnerships to provide our seniors with consistent food relief that focuses on health while keeping each other safe.
Providing programs for seniors in need is essential to the work we do here in Central California. These are the people who forged the way for many of us today, and we strive to take care of them as they did us. – Jacqueline Burke