Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: Working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for all of these years has taught me that many of our senior citizens are food-insecure because they struggle financially. Thirty years ago we started our Senior Food Program, to help this often-vulnerable segment of our population.
Our goal was to provide some supplemental food assistance to low-income seniors, age 55 and older. We saw that people who relied on Social Security as the bulk of their retirement income had difficulty making ends meet. Three decades later, that has not changed.
One thing that has changed is that thirty years ago it was much more common for people to retire with an employee-sponsored pension to help in their golden years as a reward for years of dedicated service. Nowadays most people are expected to self-fund their retirement accounts, but not everyone can afford to do so. When you are barely getting by and having difficulty paying your bills in the present, it’s hard to put away money for the future.
An ongoing problem within the Social Security system is that while the cost of food, housing and healthcare are always on the rise, increases in benefits are minimal or nonexistent. Social Security benefits simply don’t keep up with the rising cost of living, especially in the Bay Area.
A senior we recently spoke with at a distribution explained, “When you live on social security only, you have to budget very, very carefully.” She shared that receiving food from the Food Bank “takes a lot of pressure off of you because you know you can always go down and get a loaf of bread. You can get something to make a stew.”
Another senior at the distribution explained, “It helps with your weekly food budget. Every little bit helps. That’s less money we have to spend at the grocery store that we can use for something else like shampoo or bath soap.”
In addition to the Senior Food Program, low-income seniors can receive food through some of the Food Bank’s other direct distribution programs, including the Community Produce Program and Harvest to Home. We also partner with other nonprofit agencies that provide assistance to seniors through their pantries and soup kitchens.
We are thankful for our supporters who allow us to provide seniors with the nutritious food they deserve. If you are interested in making a financial donation to fight senior hunger, visit us at www.foodbankccs.org/seniors. If you are a senior needing assistance, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/getfood to get more information about a Senior Food Program distribution in your city.
The number of seniors we serve has grown over the years. Many of the seniors we talk to were once hard-working people who never imagined that they’d need assistance from a food bank someday. Aging is inevitable and people are living longer than ever. We need to let seniors know that we care and send the message that our society still values them.