During the past year, about 25 percent more of Sacramento's older adults began using local food banks, such as River City Food bank. At other local food banks, older adults lined up. Why is the number of older adults using food banks and church food pantries that give out free food increasing? News reports note that there is more adults over the age of 50 showing up at food banks in Sacramento. Check out the March 3, 2013 Sacramento Bee article by Anita Creamer, "More older adults using Sacramento food banks."
Older people, not only those 50 and over, but also those over 70 or 75, sometimes the parents of 50-year olds are waiting in lines at food banks. Many of the older adults complain of hunger, can't work due to health issues, and are living on a very limited fixed budget. Those living entirely on social security payments may be receiving three figures incomes each month and rely on that. Dinner out might be a burrito at Taco Bell or a Breakfast Jack at Jack-in-the-Box a few blocks from the senior's home.
Some seniors are turning to fast-food when the dollar day sales are posted in various fast-food eateries, but as far as free food from the food banks, the lines are getting longer. The issue is food is cut when people live on fixed, limited budgets.
Senior citizen clients at Sacramento food banks
River City Food Bank has a growing number of senior clients. The food bank serves 5,000 people each month who are "food insecure" – unable to afford an adequate number of nutritious meals each day.
To check out how many in Sacramento are food insecure, you'd turn to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which reports that more than 17 percent of Sacramento County residents are food insecure and need to rely on charitable food closets. About 8,000 local seniors each month make use of donations from Foodlink, which is the county's official food bank. Foodlink in Sacramento also runs a truck-driving school. See the site, "Truck Driving Program - California Emergency Foodlink."
Food insecurity is a growing problem in Sacramento among older adults as well as with children
Check out sites such as USDA Results: Nutrition and What's in the Foods You Eat - Search Tool. View nutrient profiles for 13,000 foods commonly eaten in the U.S. Portion sizes can be adjusted. Most news in the past focused on children's hunger programs in Sacramento, such as free school lunches, breakfasts, and snack programs. But seniors don't have free school lunches and often rely on food banks, church pantries that offer free food, or even low-cost lunches at various senior centers open during lunch hours. Many of these lunches cost around $2. Some are free.
See the sites, "We Feed Seniors Daily - HelpTheChildren.org," and "Free Food and Meals in North Sacramento, CA." With some of the free food, it's not a lunch served but rather a box of food. At the "We feed seniors every day - stop senior hunger" site, the website reports that: "Food boxes are not only distributed to children and their families, we also make a concerted effort to seek out the hungry seniors in our community and around the world. We encourage you to do the same."
Sacramento older adults waiting in lines at food banks are part of an unfortunate national trend
Figures from AARP and the Center for Poverty Research, report that in the past 12 years, the risk of going hungry has increased for people 50 and older by nearly 80 percent. Figures note that nearly 9 million people over the age of 50 are considered food insecure.
The definition of "food insecure" means more than hungry most of the time. It is defined as a household's or country's inability to provide future physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that fulfills the dietary needs and food preferences for living an active and healthy lifestyle. For further information on food security or food insecurity, check out the FAO Agricultural and Development Economics Division (June 2006). Food Security. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
Seniors often turn down food stamps because it is seen as welfare by older adults
Seniors often reject Cal Fresh food stamps because they view food stamps as welfare. They don't want the embarrassment in front of store clerks that at their advanced age, they have to use their food stamps debit card. So they don't apply for food stamps. Instead, there's a rising number of seniors anonymously waiting in lines to get free food from local food closets in the Sacramento region. Most experts think that a lot more seniors have a great need of nutrition assistance.
Some volunteer at food banks or "gleaning" services to pick fruit and vegetables from neighbors that call them to pick the produce because the neighbors have an access. But other seniors live in small rooms or apartment dwellings where there are no neighbors with back yard produce growing in excess to offer them. You have the case of seniors who worked all their lives and now that they have outlived their savings and their income is so small and 'fixed' that they are in dire need of better nutrition. Many can't afford vitamins, supplements, or even healthier food. Some live on coupons for sales at fast-food eateries such as various dollar days.
Many seniors choose between food and medications
Most seniors who cut back on food do so because they don't want the electricity or water turned off in their homes. Or they need their prescription medication. So food is pushed to the back burner. They figure they can live on anything that fills up their stomach, such as bread and hot beverages. Many younger seniors are raising grandchildren on limited budgets that have to stretch to cover the grandchildren that live with them. Some have children who can't care for small children. So they send the children to live with grandparents.
With limited income, any price increases in foods stretch the money to the breaking point. Many seniors still drive instead of taking the bus because bus passes cost seniors under the age of 75 about $50 each month, but at least they don't need a car which requires insurance payments. (Bus passes at this time for those age 75 and over are still a whopping $40 a month, which is very expensive since a decade ago they used to be starting at age 75. The very old may not have the health to drive anymore, and they may not be able to afford bus fare to the supermarket.
Many seniors can't afford supermarket prices or can't afford the costs of transportation to reach food stores
So they're stuck at home. Some live in areas of Sacramento with no sidewalks. To walk to a food market means walking in the wet curb beside heavy traffic whizzing by. It's frightening to those with dimmed eyesight and hearing, especially when bikes compete with seniors, along Marconi Avenue, Howe Avenue, and Watt Avenue for the tiny areas allowed to pedestrians trying to reach a food market. House-based seniors over age 60 who aren't able to walk to a food market or get a ride sometimes use Meals on Wheels to get food delivered.
Many other seniors need food that has no salt or no sugar added, which they can't get at the fast-food eateries near their homes. And you're not going to find at lot of special needs foods at food banks, such as canned food that says no salt added, unless someone's donated cans of that type of food.
What you'll usually find at food banks are processed, packaged or canned foods or fresh produce. If a senior is unable to cut up the vegetables and prepare them, due to vision or health issues, it's difficult to find nutritious foods such as special diets without added seasonings. Many seniors who are stroke patients don't have the use of their hands to prepare fresh foods such as cut up vegetables or operate a food blender or processor.
Limited incomes stretch budgets for food versus medications and rent
"If you're on a limited income, price increases of even a small amount will make you feel stretched," said Thomas. "Look at how gas prices have gone up, for seniors who are still driving. … And I see this as something that will continue with seniors. We will always serve families with children, but it's with seniors that we see a growing need."
The Sacramento Bee article mentions a food bank client who is a 92-year-old east Sacramento woman who has outlived the 11 younger siblings she helped raise. She's alone in the world, except for the neighbors who bring her to the food bank. Other seniors worry about not having neighbors, friends, or relatives around to even offer a ride to a food bank. A cab ride may cost $50 or more from Arden Arcade to a midtown food bank, for example. Seniors who are isolated, have not made friends, or the friends feel used if asked for a ride are more common than most people imagine.
More people will end up at 92 or older in the same situation, trying to get a ride to a food bank. Seniors wonder where can they go to ask for a ride if they're not a member of clubs or churches that provide such services, or whether there is a long waiting line to find a volunteer willing and available to take a senior to a food bank each week.
You can help at the River City Food bank Fundraiser
The River City Food Bank's 10th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser – have a simple meal of soup and take home a handcrafted glass or pottery bowl – takes place at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Monday and Tuesday. Hours are 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, two lunchtime seatings, at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 for the supper or $30 for the lunch. For more details, go to the River City Food Bank Empty Bowls website.
If you need food or want to make general inquiries, the River City Food Bank's hours for food distribution are: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their website lists an address at 1800 28th Street Sacramento, CA. This is not the address for the fundraiser. The fundraiser is at the Sacramento Convention Center.
The fundraiser on Monday March 4 and Tuesday March 5, 2013 at the Sacramento Convention Center
Get ready for Empty Bowls 2013. Sacramento’s favorite event to raise awareness and funds to fight hunger is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Professional potters and artists as well as students are starting their bowls so they will be ready for the Soup Supper on Monday March 4th and the Soup Luncheon on Tuesday, March 5th. Tickets are $60 for the Soup Supper and $30 for the Soup Luncheon.
To purchase tickets, please click here or visit The Cathedral Bookshop – 2620 Capitol Avenue or The Avid Reader at the Tower – 1600 Broadway Street. At the Soup Supper, each guest not only enjoys wine/beer, appetizers, delicious soup, and dessert from the presenting sponsor, Classique Catering, but they also choose a hand crafted ceramic, glass or wooden bowl to take home to remind them of the empty bowls in our community.
Luncheon guests will also choose their own bowls and enjoy soup and cookies from some of Sacramento’s finest restaurants. For this year, 2013, this tenth anniversary features more room, more soups, more bowls and of course more fun-raising for the fundraising.