Every day across Central Alabama, many of our neighbors must choose between buying groceries and covering other basic needs, such as paying their utility bills or filling medical prescriptions. Hunger causes silent suffering among many families in our community, but it hits hardest among the most vulnerable: children and seniors.
In 2017, the Bold Goals Coalition developed a network to bring summer meals to students who often go hungry when school is out and lunches aren’t available. As a result, for the past several summers, thousands of children have received free, healthy meals and snacks at churches, schools, parks and childcare centers across the region.
Now we are excited to launch an effort to address hunger among seniors. Within the next few months, through the new Senior Grocery Program, more than 1,000 low-income seniors will begin receiving free, monthly grocery deliveries that will help them get through each month without missing meals. Each delivery will include proteins, grains and vegetables, all of which are often missing in seniors’ diets. Within the next year, the program will have the capacity to serve 1,350 seniors across Central Alabama, bringing in $810,000 worth of federal investment.
Addressing senior hunger is particularly critical for us in Alabama, as our state has the second-highest rate for food insecurity among seniors in the nation – a rate which is double the national average for older people who often simply go without food or don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Just within Central Alabama, more than 25,000 seniors struggle with putting food on the table. These are our neighbors, friends, parents and grandparents; and they often suffer without us knowing it. Through innovative approaches, such as medical intake questionnaires that screen for food insecurity and outreach within senior housing facilities, many people will soon see an end to their struggle with hunger.
The Senior Grocery Program will involve a variety of our Bold Goals Coalition partners, including the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, East Lake Community Development, Grace Klein, UAB’s Geriatrics & Family Medicine Clinics and Blazer Kitchen. Groceries will be delivered to convenient locations to make it easy for people to access the program. Some participants may pick up groceries at their doctor’s office, while others may visit a food pantry near their home. Some groceries will even be delivered right to their front door.
“Senior hunger is present in all of our communities, and we are thankful that we at East Lake Community Development became aware of this problem,” said Eric Lipp, Executive Director of the East Lake Community Development, which will support the program at 10 senior apartment communities in greater Birmingham. “Empty cupboards and refrigerators put people at risk, and this is too powerful an issue to be ignored.”
Knowing that seniors and children in our community are struggling to find food to eat keeps us working to find solutions so that no one in Central Alabama goes hungry. The Senior Grocery Program moves us closer to that reality.
The Bold Goals Coalition is 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas.