Hunger’s Devastating Effect on Our Seniors

By Jean Blish Siers *

From Feeding America: Spotlight on Senior Health

A couple years ago, I visited a soup kitchen where one of my drivers delivers a lot of produce. Sandy, the kitchen manager, told me how much the fresh produce meant to them and to the neighbors they serve. It’s within walking distance of low-income senior housing and a lot of older folks stop in each day. Sandy said Fridays are particularly heartbreaking, when she’ll see elderly ladies wrapping up parts of a sandwich or a biscuit into a napkin to take home for the weekend. She’ll try to slip them a little something extra, because she knows they’ll be very hungry by Monday’s lunch.

Those who deliver for Society of St. Andrew have lots of stories like this. I’ve heard stories of people crying when they were given a bag of sweet potatoes. A driver with some very over-ripe strawberries apologized for delivering berries so close to going bad. The woman called her the next day and said she just used them as syrup on her pancakes and they were still delicious! One driver with some extra corn stopped to check on an older couple from the church and found that the husband, who did all of the driving for the household, had cancer and couldn’t drive, leaving the two of them unable to get into town for food.

Today, I talked with a social worker who works with three low-income senior housing complexes. I had connected her with a small farmers market and she let me know that last week, even after days of rainy, cold weather, she filled her car with lettuce and cabbage and other fresh vegetables. The bags of Swiss chard that were a mystery to her, thrilled two of the women beyond belief – said they hadn’t had chard in years and loved it. Another lady held a head of Bibb lettuce to her nose like a bouquet and said it was her late husband’s favorite green.

In the Charlotte, North Carolina area, an estimated 25% of seniors are food insecure. According to a 2014 Feeding America report, food “insecure seniors are 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack, 52 percent more likely to develop asthma, and 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure. In addition, food insecure seniors are 22 percent more likely to experience limitations in their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), which are those fundamental activities, such as eating, dressing, and bathing, that individuals typically can perform independently. These high rates probably reflect, in part, the challenges these seniors face in accessing enough food.” It’s no wonder then that the same report states hungry seniors are 60% more likely to suffer from depression.

The report goes on to say, “The distribution of food by the charitable food assistance network offers critical nutritional support to individuals in need. Increased distribution of nutrient- rich foods would ensure that food insecure seniors receive more access to nutrients vital to their health.” That’s Society of St. Andrew! We work hard to get food deep into our communities. It’s heartbreaking to think that our parents and grandparents might not have enough to eat, or enough food of decent quality for them to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

This summer, as the crops start rolling in, please join us in the fields! Every pair of hands can help save and distribute much-needed food to those in our community who need and deserve it!

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.


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In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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