Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I want you to think for a minute about the senior citizens that you know or have known in your life and especially those who have made an impact on your life. Most of us have known at least one senior during the course of our lives who we think of with great fondness. Think about a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle, friend of the family, church member or even co-worker who we have come to regard with admiration and affection.

Now think about that person going hungry. Think about that person consumed with worry about how to make ends meet on a fixed income and wondering where they will find the money to buy the groceries they need after paying all their other bills. Think of their desperation as they are forced to choose between paying for the medicine they need or buying food for their table, both of which they need to survive. And let’s not get started on the rent or mortgage.

According to the US Census Bureau, South Carolina is second in the nation for senior citizens who suffer from food insecurity, with 10% of its elderly population living in a constant state of anxiety over how to put food on their tables.  These are individuals who do not have access to healthy and nutritious food sources due to limited income, and/or inadequate transportation.  Since subsisting without consistent nourishing food increases many health risks such as malnutrition, diabetes or hypertension they become locked in a vicious cycle where their health concerns are perpetuated and their health costs continue to spiral, which impacts their ability to buy the food they need to stay healthy. 

The issue of seniors living in poverty and hunger is one we rarely see or hear much about in our country, but a recent episode of the new NBC show Harry’s Law choose to dramatically illustrate their plight with the story of an 87-year-old woman forced to commit armed robbery because she did not have the money to buy food. During the trial both the prosecuting attorney and the title character, lawyer Harriet “Harry” Korn who defended the accused senior, used current hunger and poverty statistics such as 25 million Americans are hungry everyday and 45 million live in poverty. In her summary defense, Harry talks about the shame of hunger and the desperation that seniors must feel after working their whole lives only to discover they cannot pay for their housing, medicine and food. She states in anger: “We live in the richest nation in the world yet one in seven Americans live in poverty.” I am grateful to the producers and writers of this show for dedicating an episode to an issue usually avoided in mainstream media.

We see the faces and hear the stories from hungry seniors when we provide senior boxes on the second Thursday of every month at our Emergency Food Pantry through our Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is grant funded through the SC Department of Social Services. Pre-qualified seniors receive a box of food each month to help meet their nutritional needs. Last year, Harvest Hope provided 28,758 food boxes to qualified senior citizens in Fairfield, Greenville, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Sumter counties.

Totes of Love is a new feeding program designed to meet the needs of low-income Senior citizens in the Pee Dee area.  It is a grant funded program working to improve the health of 25 low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods and providing nutrition education.  Harvest Hope Food Bank supplies the participating Chesterfield County site with food and tote bags each month.  The on-site coordinator sends home a food-filled tote bi-weekly to qualifying applicants who are at least 60 years of age and older who live in Chesterfield County, and whose income is at 130% of the poverty levels for the state. There is no cost to the participants, but the tote must be returned prior to the delivery day in order to be refilled. 

Please take a moment to reflect on the suffering of our elderly neighbors who are caught in the cycle of economic hardship, hunger and anxiety. Think about the seniors that are closest to you and have contributed so much to your well being. It is difficult to imagine our own grandparents or even parents suffering and worrying about the money for their next meal. Remember that this is the reality for 10% of senior citizens in our state.  Please help us continue our efforts to lessen the pain of hunger for the elderly in our community and designate a gift for our senior feeding programs. We can provide 250 meals for a senior citizen for less than $40, or  1,000 meals for a senior for less than $150. Give us a call at (803) 254-4432 or visit www.harvesthope.org to easily make a donation.

I know it is in your hearts to help those who have made a lifetime of providing love and encouragement to others. Thank you for your compassion.

With Warmest Regards and Thanks,

Denise Holland

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. -Leviticus 19:32

“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory.”  - Proverbs 16:31