The Capital Area Food Bank’s Senior Brown Bag Program, currently serving over 3,070 seniors at 72 sites around the region, is subject to income eligibility and because of that, unlike our other direct service programs, it gives us a window into the incomes of our senior clients. The average client’s monthly income is $750, or $9,000 a year, usually from social security.
How do they manage on that meager income where the cost of living is one of the highest in the country? One senior client who shared her budget with us describes the constant struggle to spend on necessities with scarce resources.
Because she lives in subsidized housing, Allie pays $350 for rent and utilities, leaving just over half of her monthly income for everything else. Since isolation in older adults causes depression and contributes to hypertension and a host of other illnesses, Allie refuses to give up her old car which provides her with some independence. Her budget and gas prices allow her to drive to church and visit her local grandchildren. She budgets $80 a month for fuel, car maintenance and license fees.
Prescription medications soak up $130 in monthly co-pay and her car comes in handy here in being able to drive to the best choice for supplies for her asthma and high blood pressure. Allie budgets for insurance and savings at $60 per month and her clothing budget of $35 a month is spent at thrift and consignment stores, places where she still manages to snag some stylish hats and gifts for her grandchildren.
With $95 left in her monthly budget, you may well be asking when we will get to food. Wait. There’s more. Allie tithes to her church $37.50 a month. On a spiritual and civic level, this makes perfect sense to Allie. Because she visits food pantries, she feels the need to give back. Allie has a cell phone loaded with minutes at a cost of about $20 a month, making it is much cheaper than a land line and giving her added mobility.
A voracious reader, library patron and church volunteer with an old television and radio, Allie spends next to nothing for entertainment, so $37.50 is left for food and whatever expenses may come up. This is why Allie is an enthusiastic participant in food bank and pantry programs and why she may soon apply for SNAP (food stamp) assistance, adding another increment to those resources already stretched beyond the limit.
The details of Allie’s life constitute a composite of so many Capital Area Food Bank clients. Every day we strive to serve more and more people in the areas of most need. With your care and concern, we will continue to increase our service. Like Allie, we strive to reach an economy of scale; economies that will result in happier and more bountiful lives for our neighbors who are at risk of hunger.