Loneliness, Isolation and Hunger
Once a month, 75-year-old Sandra visits Southern Anoka County Assistance (SACA) to pick up a box of food. The box may include canned fruits, vegetables and juices, cheese, peanut butter or dried beans, cereal, rice and pasta. The Fridley resident has been visiting the food shelf for years and relies on the food she receives to live.
“What I use helps a lot, especially the cheese and oatmeal,” she said. “I’m very health-conscious. I eat oatmeal every day. I make a lot of soups and freeze them, butternut and pea soup.”
Without the box, Sandra fears she might not be able to afford to feed her beloved Mandy—the big yellow Labrador that is her one and only companion. Sandra has been disabled since 1997, when cancer and the radiation treatment administered to cure her cancer damaged her right leg.
“It’s hard for me to walk, but luckily I can still drive, or I wouldn’t be able to get here,” she said. “My neighbors help sometimes.”
SACA, located in Columbia Heights, has been serving the communities of Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Fridley and Spring Lake Park for more than 40 years and is an important source of food for many seniors like Sandra.
The box Sandra receives each month comes from Second Harvest Heartland through the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS), part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a federally funded food resource for older Americans. There are 14,000 Minnesota seniors who participate in NAPS. Of those, Second Harvest Heartland serves approximately 9,500 through its Maplewood facility and new hunger-relief campus in Brooklyn Park.
Reaching Hungry Seniors
Second Harvest Heartland and its partners aim to reduce the gaps in nutrition services for low-income, older Americans by connecting them to programs like NAPS and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
Seniors, like children, are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of poor nutrition. Seniors experiencing hunger are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and depression.
In the U.S., more than 4 million low-income adults over age 60 rely on SNAP to stay healthy and make ends meet. That may seem like a lot, but 3 out of 5 seniors who qualify for SNAP do not participate.
“Every day, 10,000 people in the U.S. become seniors,” said Pat Pearson, Director of Agency Relations at Second Harvest Heartland. “Many seniors aren’t aware these programs exist or assume they don’t qualify.
Pearson and her team are working hard to increase participation through targeted outreach at senior housing facilities, community centers and NAPS sites. Reaching seniors who face barriers related to mobility, technology and stigma is a priority.
“I’m grateful for the food I get,” Sandra said. “It would be very hard for me to live without it.”
May is Older Americans Month, and we’re sharing this story to help raise awareness of the many older Americans that sometimes need a little food help to get by.
If you think you may be eligible for CSFP or know someone who may require assistance, please call 651.484.8241 or toll free at 800.365.0270 for more information.