Listening to Our Seniors - Capital Area Food Bank
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Listening to Our Seniors

By Allison Majewski August 26, 2014

senior-strongAs Marian Barton Peele, Senior Director of Partners and Programs and a food bank employee for 24 years, likes to say, “There’s nothing more exciting than giving our clients exactly what they want.”  So, to capture feedback about CAFB senior programs, Senior Brown Bag and the Grocery Plus Program , we recently hosted a series of three lunches and invited those who matter most—the seniors!
We were interested in learning more about the types of foods seniors want, their health goals, and what else can be done to make their lives easier. We were so overwhelmed by their gratitude for the programs, and boy did they have a lot to share with us about their lives and personal relationships with food and cooking.
Many seniors are on a fixed income and receive the minimum SNAP benefit. They are out of work, retired or disabled, and rely on emergency food assistance to make sure they have enough food for themselves and their families each month. Our Senior Brown Bag and Grocery Plus programs provide monthly groceries to seniors who qualify. Through these programs, we are able to serve over 9,800 seniors in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. The programs, however, provide more than a bag of healthy food like grains, beans, protein and fresh vegetables each month. One aspect the seniors love most about the Grocery Plus program is the vouchers they get for free farmers market produce in the summer.
The most amazing thing we heard from the listening session participants was how much they love helping each other! Since many of them live in the same buildings, they help each other by sharing the meals they cook with family and friends, as well as cooking tips, and the ways they’ve learned to stretch their food budget over the years. Even though our seniors are working hard to make ends meet, they still want to give back. Many asked about volunteer opportunities and ways they can help. We listened, and have started to engage some of the seniors in opportunities here at the food bank. Since shyness is not an issue with most of these seniors, many are willing to share their stories in their community to promote hunger awareness and increase participation in our programs.
We also learned that seniors want to eat healthy. The foods they want more than any others are kale and other greens, apples, bananas, chicken, turkey, beef and fish. It’s clear that our work is to make these healthy foods, which are more expensive than processed or carb-heavy foods, available to seniors who have limited food budgets. We also learned that they all appreciate our newsletter – Bag it Up! – which is included with the food and offers simple recipes, food handling guidelines and other health tips.
We are always looking for ways to reach more seniors through our programs and to provide healthy, nutritious foods to those in need. The Capital Area Food Bank is committed to strengthening the seniors in our region and empowering them to be a voice in their communities. Seniors in Brown Bag and Grocery Plus are strong, Senior Strong.