Food insecurity is a real issue that many individuals, especially older adults, face every single day in our community. 1 in 8 seniors is at risk of hunger due to limited budgets, declining mobility, or medical issues. Community partners like Dare to Care Food Bank provide solutions this complex problem through several offerings, including Senior Commodities, a federal program that provides monthly, well-balanced food packages to low-income seniors who meet certain requirements.
As a commodities pick-up site, ElderServe’s Senior Center provides a close and convenient location for seniors in West Louisville to pick up their monthly box of grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables. During her Fall semester at UofL’s Kent School of Social Work, Social Services Intern, Patsy Tivitt learned the ins and outs of the program while connecting the seniors to helpful community resources. The Commodities program was great for those who had reliable transportation, but what about the seniors who couldn’t make it to the center? How would they get the monthly supply of food they so greatly needed? Tivitt’s answer: Home Delivery.
Soon thereafter, the UofL Senior manifested the idea into her Capstone project. We sat down with her to learn more about this new initiative.
Q: What sparked the idea behind this new project?
A: “Commodities day was one of the first things I did after starting my practicum here. As people came in and I helped people with their boxes to their cars I started to have questions about how people without cars or family to help and support them got this service or got food in general. I wondered how people could use public transportation for this without being able to carry the box, or what people who could not leave their home did for food. The senior commodities program is a really great program that helps so many older adults, but it was leaving out a key population that could really benefit from having a box of food accessible each month. Lisa [Smith] delivers to some of the clients that would qualify for this program, but she cannot deliver to everyone, so my idea grew from that.”
Q: How many people does the commodities program serve each month?
A: “We have 174 participants signed up through the senior center to pick up each month, and 90 picked up in January. We are adding people every month, so our numbers are growing since ElderServe first started being a pick-up site, but they stay around 80-90 a month pick up.”
Q: How many more people can be reached through a volunteer delivering these meals?
A: “This program can reach low-income seniors that are not physically or medically unable able to leave their home, seniors with limited access to transportation, seniors with limited support systems to get them to the center, and seniors unbale to carry and transport the food itself. The actual amount of people able to be served will have to be based on volunteers, but I am hopeful this program will be able to grow. This program would have a volunteer deliver the food and take it and take into their home.”
Q: When is the expected launch date of this program?
A: “I am hopeful by the end of February we will have at least one volunteer, so we can start. After I complete the manual we will be ready to start and train any volunteers and start them as soon as possible.”
Q: Anything else you’d like to mention?
A: “This is a twice a month program, free program for participants and to qualify older adults over the age of 60 must meet the income requirements through the Senior Commodities Program and show they have unreliable transportation or that they have a medical or physical condition preventing them from leaving their home or being able to come to a pick-up site. This program will be able to meet seniors where they are and help give them services and help connect them with ElderServe. To volunteer you must be able to carry the 25-pound box of food, have your own transportation and the ability to operate a motor vehicle, and pass a background check and drug screen test.
I am hopeful this program will be able to grow after I leave at the end of April, and that ElderServe will be able to give this service to seniors all over Louisville. I am really thankful for all of the great people at ElderServe that have went out of their way to help me through this process, and I think that shows how great everyone here is and what a great agency this is for the community and for students that come here.”
If you’re interested in volunteering for this program, contact Volunteer Services Manager, Sarah Irvin at 502.736.3847 or email@example.com.