Our Senior and Homebound Delivery Programs operate 16 distribution sites countywide, reaching between 700 and 800 program participants each month. The largest monthly senior food distribution occurs in Eureka at Food for People on the first Thursday of every month. More than 200 Eureka area seniors visit us on this day within the span of four hours, and in addition, 16 volunteer drivers deliver food to 100 homebound clients.
Behind the scenes, staff and volunteers involved in the senior distribution are working at a fast pace to keep everything stocked, help folks bring food to cars, load up volunteer delivery drivers’ vehicles, and keep the sign-in table moving as quickly as possible. I recently worked the sign-in table for the four-hour distribution, and I’d like to share a little about the people we get to know better in that process. When sitting face to face with these older men and women, it quickly becomes clear that any one of them could easily be our own parent, no longer able to cook and living on a low, fixed income that isn’t enough to make it through each month. And it could also be us one day.
For many in our Senior and Homebound Programs, pick-up (or delivery) day is a chance to have social interaction with site staff and volunteers who genuinely care. We sat with a senior who had recently lost her own mother -missed her tremendously- and just needed a few minutes to connect. We sat with a woman in her nineties, who is battling several challenging illnesses including cancer, was just recently released from the hospital, and has a joyous spirit and sense of humor toward life. She was intent on making everyone around her laugh, and relished telling me funny stories and jokes. The human spirit, in all of our program participants, is truly remarkable and cherished.
Each program participant has a unique story. Some of our seniors have debilitating health conditions and rely on us as their primary source for food. Some are in relatively good health and appreciate access to the nutritious foods—especially fresh fruits and vegetables—that help them maintain their health. Some live in homes they’ve lived in most of their lives, some live in apartments, and some live in motels. I wonder how a few would survive without kind friends who drive them to the food bank or pick up their food for them as a proxy. Some have few, if any, people in their lives to lean on for help.
In our recent Senior Brown Bag and Homebound Delivery Program phone surveys, program participants shared their thoughts on the programs with us: “I like the idea that people of my age with a fixed-income can have some place to go for food.” “I am just grateful that the program and people help everyone that needs it. Hunger doesn't have a color, nationality, or race, and we should all just help each other.” “This program helps so much because it is a struggle to get through a month.” "It means a lot to me, and there is a lot of work that goes into getting us food, so I am very appreciative."
A large team of food bank volunteers delivers to homebound members of our Senior Brown Bag and Homebound Delivery Programs in several communities across the county. Delivery is limited, since it depends on how many volunteer drivers we have to cover all of the deliveries requested. Many have been delivering to the clients on their routes for years, have developed close relationships with them, and feel a deep sense of commitment to their wellbeing. We couldn’t be prouder of the kindness and generosity of our volunteers.While we do offer delivery to homebound members of our Senior Brown Bag Program, our Homebound Delivery Program is designed specifically to meet the needs of people under age 60 who are too ill or disabled to leave their homes. The program is available on a short-term or long-term basis. We accept referrals from hospital discharge planners, social workers, health workers, and medical professionals. Some participants are recovering from surgery or treatments, while others may be coping with a terminal illness.
If you are interested in getting involved with our Senior or Homebound Programs, there are several ways to do so. Volunteer to help at one of our distribution sites, helping to keep food stocked and carry food to participants’ vehicles. Consider becoming a volunteer delivery driver, or a back-up delivery driver that we can call when there is a planned or unplanned absence. We are always grateful for financial support, which helps us coordinate and staff these programs, transport food to 16 senior distribution sites throughout the county, and acquire nutritious foods at a low wholesale cost. For more information on getting involved, please donate or get involved.
By Deborah Waxman, Director of Programs @email