“Older adults have been hurt by the economy, and in many cases, so have the people they rely on for help,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. “These seniors are living on a fixed income in an area where the cost of living is extremely high. Many in their generation are simply too proud to ask for help and don’t want to burden their children or others in their support network who may also be struggling due to the recent recession. We want to make sure local seniors get the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.”
Second Harvest Food Bank serves more than 20,000 seniors in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties each month through its Brown Bag program and other food-assistance programs. Brown Bag provides weekly nutritious groceries to adults over age 60 and those over age 55 with a disability. It is one of the Food Bank’s oldest programs, started in 1975. Last fiscal year, Second Harvest’s Brown Bag program provided the equivalent of more than 6.2 million meals.
Through the Brown Bag program, Second Harvest provides weekly bags of groceries to seniors at 75 sites throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including community centers, churches, senior centers, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, groceries are delivered to nearly 700 homebound seniors each week.
“If it weren’t for Second Harvest, we wouldn’t have food on the table. We’re so grateful to have something to eat every day,” said Olegaria Maldonado, who has been a Brown Bag participant in San Jose for more than five years. “The rice, eggs, milk, bread, and fresh fruits and vegetables have really made a difference. We actually share food with our neighbors, too, since they’re in the same rough spot we’re in. We do what we can; that’s how we were raised.”
A recent survey of Brown Bag participants shows that the program is making a significant difference in their lives. Thanks to the Brown Bag program:
• 91 percent are less stressed about providing food for themselves or their families
• 93 percent are better able to manage their health
• 94 percent eat more fruits and vegetables
• 83 percent have more money to spend on other basic needs
Brown Bag participants have an average household income of just $1,106 per month, forcing them to make difficult choices. Many seniors forgo food to pay for other basic needs like medications and housing.
“We really owe it to our seniors to make sure they get enough to eat,” Jackson said. “Without Second Harvest’s Brown Bag program, many of these seniors would be at increased risk for malnutrition.”
Hunger can lead to serious health problems in seniors. Lack of proper nutrition increases their potential for more hospital stays, health complications, early entry into assisted-living facilities, and premature death. It decreases muscle strength, meaning a higher chance of falls. Weaker seniors are more likely to be gravely injured in a fall and placed in nursing homes.
“We launched our ‘Too Proud to Ask’ campaign to raise awareness about senior hunger,” Jackson said. “We are hoping the community will support our effort to feed local seniors who may be too proud to ask for themselves. No senior should ever have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”
Older adults who are struggling to put food on the table should call Second Harvest Food Bank’s Food Connection hotline at 800-984-3663 to learn about Brown Bag and other food-assistance programs, including CalFresh (food stamps). To support Second Harvest’s effort to help those who may be too proud to ask, call 866-234-3663 or visit http://www.SHFB.org.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is the trusted leader dedicated to ending local hunger. Since its inception in 1974, Second Harvest has become one of the largest food banks in the nation, providing food to an average of nearly one quarter of a million people each month. The Food Bank mobilizes individuals, companies and community partners to connect people to the nutritious food they need. More than half of the food distributed is fresh produce. Second Harvest also plays a leading role in promoting federal nutrition programs and educating families on how to make healthier food choices. Visit http://www.SHFB.org to get involved.