2017-03-16 / Health & Wellness

FOOD Share bolsters efforts to feed low-income seniors in Thousand Oaks

Kits delivered each month to Goebel Center
By Hector Gonzalez

NEEDED NUTRIENTS—FOOD Share has joined a USDA program that provides food to low-income seniors. Items chosen are meant to fill nutritional gaps that are common in that demographic. NEEDED NUTRIENTS—FOOD Share has joined a USDA program that provides food to low-income seniors. Items chosen are meant to fill nutritional gaps that are common in that demographic. Every day, 10 million seniors in America worry about where their next meal will come from, according to a 2016 report from the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.

While help is available through various programs, some seniors may feel embarrassed about asking for aid or overwhelmed by the documents needed to apply for assistance.

Now, a new local program is delivering free food once a month to about 3,500 low-income seniors in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and two other Ventura County cities, without requiring them to complete the usual and sometimes burdensome income documentation.

Seniors age 60 and older who earn $15,444 or less a year only need to state their income to qualify for the commodity supplemental food program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Not only does this remove the stigma surrounding food assistance that many seniors experience, but it also removes many of the barriers seniors have to overcome to receive assistance,” said Briana Frank, spokesperson for FOOD Share Inc. of Ventura County.

USDA officials recently approved the regional food bank to take part in the program, one of three food banks in the state approved to participate this year. The two others are Community Action Partnership in Kern County and Foodlink in Sacramento.

This year the federal program, which was created through the Agricultural Act of 2014—also known as the Farm Bill—received about $236 million to buy food to be distributed to health and social services agencies in 47 states. This year California agencies received about $6.9 million of the funding.

A shipment from the federal program arrived this month at FOOD Share’s Oxnard warehouse, where employees will package the items into “senior kits” of food selected to fill “the nutritional gaps that are most common in seniors who are food insecure,” Frank said.

Officials at the food bank and other participating agencies go to the federal program’s website and select from a list of about two dozen items the USDA recommends for older people, such low-sodium canned vegetables, unsweetened juices, low-fat milk, and packages of grains and pasta.

FOOD Share is distributing the packages once a month to senior centers in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard and Fillmore.

On Tuesday, qualifying seniors in Thousand Oaks picked up free food kits at Goebel Adult Community Center on Janss Road.

In Camarillo, low-income seniors will receive packages through the program from 9 to 11 a.m. Wed., April 5 at Pleasant Valley Senior Center, 1605 Burnley St.

“A new distribution site was confirmed at the Simi Valley Senior Center, but we have not been provided any additional details on that distribution site just yet,” Frank said in a March 10 email.

Nationwide, this year’s program is expected to feed some 697,865 seniors a month, about 78,865 more than last year, the USDA’s website said.

Aside from the new supplemental food the county agency is now supplying for low-income seniors, FOOD Share operates the Senior Share program, which delivers groceries to more than 25 sites around the county.

It also delivers prepared meals and groceries to homebound seniors in Oxnard in partnership with the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, Frank said.

The number of seniors in need of food locally and across the nation is expected to increase because the older population is projected to reach 79 million by 2040, more than double than in 2000, according to Feeding America, a nonprofit food assistance program.

“The average Social Security benefit is just over $1,200 a month, and a majority of seniors today rely on Social Security as their largest source of income,” said a 2011 AARP report on seniors and hunger.

Senior hunger is “a problem often hiding right in front of us,” the report said.

In Ventura County, one out of every 12 seniors experiences hunger, FOOD Share said.

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