CENTRAL COAST, Calif. (KION) Senior citizens may go unnoticed when it comes to the subject of food insecurity. According to the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz County, “40% of all older Santa Cruzans (age 65+) do not have enough income to meet their basic needs,” food being one of them.
“We hear a lot of people that, if it wasn't for this meal, there would be nothing in my fridge. And so it's just really something that, you know, is behind closed doors,” Raymon Cancino, Chief Executive Officer at Community Bridges.
It’s becoming increasingly harder and harder for people to make ends meet, and many older adults across the Central Coast are struggling. And the cost of living continues to go up.
“We know that seniors are on fixed incomes. They can't afford to continue to also pay their rent and their medical Medicare B, Plan B things, and that they're really struggling to just stay afloat,” Cancino.
Almost one in five seniors are living below the poverty level, according to the CEO of Community Bridges, a number that has been on a steep incline in the past 18 months. For those who are homebound, this access to food is especially difficult.
“In many parts of the community you can’t just open your door and walk to your local grocery store its nearly impossible. Then you have to have the money to go to the grocery store and have the means and wherewithal to come home and prepare your meals,” Regina Gage, Executive Director for Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley.
Meals on Wheels, Grey Bear and Second Harvest are just some of the programs helping to keep seniors fed. Unfortunately, just this past week a critical program, Great Plates in Santa Cruz, had to shut its doors. KION was told that program had close to 800 new seniors needing food assistance and that’s in addition to the existing 800 clients in other programs. And the demand for these programs may continue to grow.
“You have the boomers and an aging population of people moving in a different phase of their life and Unfortunately not everybody has either planned for their retirement in the proper way or they have not had the opportunity to plan,” said Gage.
Regardless all these programs are working together for the same goal to off set hunger and ensure seniors have access to food.