Expanding Services to Seniors Through a Healthcare Connection
Jan Schwanke always dreamed of operating a food shelf in her community and when she opened the doors to the Springfield Area Food Shelf just a few years ago, her dream became a reality. Today, the food shelf reaches 65 to 70 households each month from five rural communities across southern Minnesota.
Generosity from the members of the community has allowed the food shelf to expand, add cooler and freezer space and ultimately increase the number of individuals reached with even more food per household.
But those are not the only changes that the food shelf is seeing. In the past year, the food shelf has been working to expand their reach to seniors in the community. The food shelf is a distribution site for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a program reaching low-income seniors by providing them a monthly box of nutritious, shelf-stable food items.
“Sometimes, seniors have a lot of pride that keeps them from wanting to visit the food shelf,” said Jan. “A lot of the seniors we know are eligible for food help also have issues with mobility.”
In partnership with a dietician from a local clinic and senior housing complexes Springfield Area Food Shelf is helping seniors overcome these barriers.
At the clinic, staff members see a lot of individuals that struggle with access to food. After seeing the quality of food, including fresh produce and other fresh items from local retail donations, the clinic staff knew there was an opportunity for partnership. Staff members from the clinic have been visiting assisted living housing complexes to present to senior residents on nutrition training and how to receive a monthly free box of food. To take it a step further, they are even working with the maintenance staff at the buildings to deliver the CSFP food boxes so the individuals never even step foot in the food shelf if they don’t want to.
“We still have more people to reach and our goal in working with the clinic is to continue to add participants to the CSFP program,” said Jan. On a clinic level, their goal is to seek better outcomes for their patients that are struggling with access to enough healthy food.
While this connecting between the hunger relief and health care sectors continues to grow and change the way we fight hunger, for Jan it’s also about support of her community.
“I was asked one time, ‘why do you do what you do?’ It's because I am there to support the one person, they might not even need that much food, they might just need someone to talk to. If I can make them smile, that’s all that matters.”