Each year, millions of seniors face difficult choices between paying for rent, utilities, medicine, or food. The Administration on Aging, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, projects that there will be 79.7 million older adults in 2040, more than twice as many as in 2000.
These changing demographics are already having a profound impact on the demand for social services, particularly the need for adequate nutrition. Across the country, food banks and anti-hunger organizations are working together to protect the more than 5 million older adults who are food insecure, ensuring that seniors have the proper nutritional interventions to address their unique health concerns. During the past year, much of the Vermont Foodbank’s 3SquaresVT outreach focused on the state’s senior population. Sally Ingraham, the Foodbank’s 3SquaresVT outreach manager, travels around the state assisting people with their 3SquaresVT applications.
“Many of the people I am working with are seniors,” says Ingraham. “Older adults living on fixed and low incomes are eligible for the program in large numbers; however, many are not receiving the benefits they need. My job is to find out why and help them apply.”
Last year, Ingraham helped complete 149 applications, many for seniors over the age of 60. One of these seniors is Gwen. “I hear it all the time: ‘Someone needs it more than me,’” says Gwen. “I used to say the same thing.” In 2008 Gwen lost her full-time job as a real estate agent. “I was working for a family owned business—we were an office of four,” she explains. “When the housing industry tanked, I got laid off.” Gwen worked part-time here and there but struggled to find consistent work. “I started volunteering at the senior meal site because, at 61, I couldn’t imagine being stuck in my house all day long. I don’t know how to not work.” The folks at the senior center encouraged Gwen to apply for 3SquaresVT. “I applied and have been receiving $65 each month for about a year now. I use my 3SquaresVT to buy veggies and fresh fruit and milk. My meals are balanced and healthier than they have ever been.”
And Gwen isn’t alone. Thousands of eligible Vermont seniors are seeing benefits through their participation in 3SquaresVT and other senior nutrition programs.
“As part of my outreach, there are a number of homebound clients that I work with,” says Ingraham about assisting seniors with their 3SquaresVT applications. “I have seen the before and after pictures of a senior’s refrigerator. One woman I visited showed me her refrigerator— it was empty. She applied and is now receives 3SquaresVT. Things look much different for her now—not just because she has food.”
The Vermont Foodbank continues to conduct statewide outreach to seniors eligible for 3SquaresVT. We also distribute CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) boxes to seniors on a monthly basis.
This work would not be possible without the support of our donors. Please consider giving to the Vermont Foodbank. You can help us provide meals to a neighbor in need today.