Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Whenever I think about the 3,000 people the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides food to through our Senior Food Program, I know that part of the reason they need food is because they depend on the Social Security program. We now understand that Social Security is not supposed to be the sole source of income for a retired person, but many retirees thought it was their retirement plan. If you look at the total number of retirees receiving Social Security, it is only 38% of the total income those people receive. Of the entire group, 52% of married couples and 74% of unmarried individuals have over 50% of their income coming from Social Security. When you consider that group of people, 22% of the married people and 47% of the individuals get 90% of their income from Social Security. There is a wide range in how much people depend on Social Security with some depending on the program a great deal.
The reason people need to come to the Senior Food Program is because the average Social Security payment is $1,294 per month. If an individual was getting 90% of their income from Social Security they would have a total income of less than $17,000 a year and a married couple would earn just over $31,000. Where can they find an apartment they can afford? Where do they cut their cost when medical issues hit them with copay costs?
Even people who live in subsidized housing face these challenges. Even people who pay on a sliding scale can pay $800 a month. In talking to someone we partner with at a subsidized senior residence, she reminded me that most of the people they serve are unmarried (more widows than widowers). She spoke about one person who only had $20 for her food budget after she met all her living expenses. Several of the people who live in their residence had made retirement plans but lost most of what they had set aside when the market crashed. People who had lived in the community their whole lives saw their income fall so that they were no longer able to pay taxes and maintenance costs on their home. The plans they made failed because of circumstances beyond their control. Now they are trying to live on what Social Security provides.
The area people can cut costs is the food they buy, so the Senior Food Program makes a real difference in their lives. We do not provide all the food a person needs, but seniors receive bread, fruit, vegetables and canned food. Twice a month we are able to help people get just a little bit more. Senior citizens are proud people who do not want to take charity. People have worked their whole lives to be independent, but their world has changed. Social Security does not give people enough income to buy the healthy food a senior deserves.