Every day, seniors across Alabama are forced to make hard choices between food and other basic necessities. Today’s seniors in need are a melting pot of lifestyles and circumstances. Peppered among the chronically impoverished, those who faced tight budgets, low wages, and other such impediments throughout life, are seniors who had set aside modest retirement accounts (accounts that were ravaged by the 2008 financial collapse) and those who were laid off and have not found a new position in the years since. All seniors in need, no matter their background, deserve to live healthy, full lives!
For seniors, the struggles associated with hunger are particularly challenging. Typically, seniors are already facing more complicated and costly health issues than other demographics. Seniors also have fewer opportunities for employment, whether due to health problems or employer prejudice, than their younger competitors.
Let’s look at some of the key impacts of poor nutrition and hunger on seniors in need:
Increase in health complications
It can also impede a senior’s ability to heal and recover after accident, injury, illness or surgery. Furthermore, with many prescriptions requiring that you take them on a full stomach, hunger can decrease the efficacy of prescription medications, make a senior feel ill, or otherwise prevent seniors from taking and fully benefiting from prescription medications.
Decrease in mobility and/or activity level
Studies have shown that seniors who are hungry tend to have an activity level equal to someone 14 years older than they are due to a lack of essential nutrients and low caloric intake; meaning that a 65 year old can have the activity level of an average, well-fed 79 year old. Such decreases in mobility and activity level can accelerate muscle atrophy, osteoporosis, and other such issues.
Increase in chronic disease
Poor nutrition limits intake of essential vitamins and minerals, which can create or compound health issues. Hunger and poor nutrition among seniors increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, depression and other chronic diseases. Hunger can also exacerbate problems from pre-existing conditions.
Hunger, as we have often said, knows no allegiance or prejudice. It simply exists, reaching across ethnicities and geography, waiting for active and engaged individuals to stand up and make a difference.
MAFB is working hard to reach out to the more than 66,000 seniors living in poverty across our 35-county service area. MAFB works with Partner Agencies to offer Emergency Food Pantries, Meals on Wheels Programs, On-Site Feeding Programs, and Mobile Pantries. Our rapidly growing Senior Supplement program augments these feeding programs by reaching seniors that are often, either due to health concerns or financial restrictions, unable to leave their homes and visit their local MAFB Partner Agency or attend a Mobile Pantry to receive food support.
We invite you to learn more about our Senior Supplement Program here.
Want to make a big impact? With a recent grant from the Hussman Foundation, donations from new donors given to benefit the Senior Supplement Program will be matched dollar-for-dollar. This grant is available until November 2014, and will match up to $10,000. Please consider taking advantage of this opportunity to help us as we strive to reach out to more seniors in need! Donate now.
Every year, MAFB reaches out to more than 60,000 seniors living in poverty across the state. While we have many programs designed to reach seniors in their communities or homes, every so often it is our privilege to get to visit with a senior in need.
Recently, Cheri O’Dell, who manages MAFB’s Senior Supplement Program, had the opportunity to assist a local senior who called looking for Ensure or Boost nutritional drinks. At 81 years old, she has a variety of medical conditions that have restricted her diet so much that she cannot eat and must live off of these drinks.
Medicaid used to help her pay for them – but coverage changed and they don’t cover these drinks any longer. She’s trying to live on $700 a month. She is still in her own home and her kids try to help when they can, but it seems like it’s never enough to cover her most basic living expenses.
Nutritional drinks for seniors are hard to come by, but we managed to find a few dozen to take to her.
Arriving at her modest home, Cheri was greeted by a 4-foot nothing woman. Her frame and build are tiny, no doubt emphasized by her struggle to provide for herself. Nevertheless, she was sweet and kind, and greeted Cheri with a warm hug and smile. They visited for a time, discussing the woman’s life and her struggles to find enough in her budget just to feed herself. Looking around her home, it was clear that she goes without more often than not, but when asked if she needed anything else she replied that she would just be grateful for more Ensure or Boost drinks if we get them in.
Leaving that sweet senior after providing help was bittersweet, as it always is. When we get the opportunity to sit down with someone in need, there’s always a blend of joy at having helped another person and a twinge of despair that we cannot do more…and there always seems to be more that needs doing.
Please take a moment to learn more about our Senior Supplement Program and MAFB's efforts to serve seniors in need.
2013 has been a year of incredible growth for the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB). Indeed, it has been full of challenges, new opportunities, and tremendous leaps of faith. Fortunately, we at the food bank have always enjoyed a great deal of support from the local community – this support helped to make 2013 our most productive year ever.
Perhaps our greatest challenge has been continuing to work within the constraints of our existing facility after taking on an additional 10 counties to our service area in 2010 – a 40% growth. We knew that our existing facility would be inadequate to tackle this increase, but that has not made the growing pains any easier.
As many of you know, in order to adequately serve the needs of today and tomorrow we are in the midst of a $2,000,000 Capital Campaign to increase the size of our facility by nearly 24,000 sq ft. We began the year with $1.2 million raised, but again thanks to the long recession we faced a long road to get to goal. We are still chasing down the last funding needed to maximize our use of the facility, but construction is nearly complete. The building is scheduled for completion in early 2014, and I am confident that we will meet or exceed our fundraising goal quickly after.
With the recession continuing to negatively impact families across Alabama, the need for our services has increased dramatically over the past several years. Our distribution finally crested 20 million pounds this year (roughly 670 tractor-trailer loads), and shows no signs of slowing down. Included in this growth, I am proud to say, is a significant leap in our distribution of fresh produce. We ended FY 13 in June 2013 having distributed nearly 1,000,000 more pounds of produce than the year before, totaling just over 2.8 million pounds. We expect that with our new facility and the spacious 90,000 cu ft freezer cooler combination being installed, we will continue to grow our distribution of fresh produce (and frozen goods) in the years to come by leaps and bounds. In doing so, we will ensure that families across the state receive a wide variety of quality, nutritious foods in support of their long-term health and wellbeing.
Continuing growth in key programs such as our Mobile Pantry Program, combined with a rising amount of support from national and local donors and a very strong showing from our Store Donation partners (who supply millions of pounds of food every year), has come together during this critical time to ensure that we are in a sound financial position to close out the calendar year. Overall, we are set up for great success in 2014.
With the new facility built and in use, our operational needs will no doubt rise in accordance with our growing output. But, we are confident that with the help of concerned and connected community members such as yourself, we can continue to work in earnest towards our mission of Feeding Hope Across Alabama.