Dear Senator Amedore
It was so nice to receive your recent letter, Senator Amedore, explaining what the 2015 New York State Budget will mean to me. As a senior living in Ulster County who manages the Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, New York, I am extremely aware of struggles of Ulster County seniors. As you wrote, seniors “have spent their lives and careers here in the 46th Senate District deserve to be able to afford to retire here and enjoy their golden years in the communities they’ve called home for so many years.”
Senator Amedore, I have thought exactly the same thing many times as I distribute a 3-day-supply of food to seniors who don’t have enough $$$ to buy sufficient food with their social security checks.
In your letter, you listed several programs receiving funding that seniors rely upon:
Community Services for the Elderly
LifeSpan for Elderly Abuse, Education, and Outreach
New York Foundation for Senior Home Sharing and Respite
Senior Action Council Hotline
On behalf of the seniors from your district shopping at food pantries, I thank you for including these services in your budget.
One thing missing in the lineup was any reference to food. This omission is entirely understandable. No one but the seniors understand what a struggle food is for this category of people in our population.
Grocery shopping for the elderly is difficult under the best of circumstances. Getting to the grocery store can be challenging for older people – especially for those living in a food desert. Getting around in the parking lot and going up and down the grocery store aisles is no fun anymore. And, when they can’t find what they need and afford, they have to maneuver the muddy parking lot and the scary entrance ramp of our pantry. And…we haven’t even discussed the packages yet. They’ve got to be gotten home and in the kitchen.
Finally, getting high quality, affordable food is more and more difficult as the days go by. And, it’s even more difficult for those seniors who no longer drive or own a working automobile.
In Ulster County, many seniors residents living in rural areas of the county live in a food desert and are miles from a grocery store offering fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry deliver food packages weekly to approximately 40 households composed of transportation challenged people…many of whom are seniors. Some of these people have no working stoves in their homes.
Many seniors in our pantry line would certainly qualify for SNAP – even in it’s current reduced condition. However, they lack the wherewithal to get qualified. For one thing, it’s a good half hour down Route 28. For another, they are sometimes afraid. They’re afraid of the forms, the humiliation of being unable to survive on their own in the last years of their lives. They are afraid of the long wait in a building they may not even be able to find. In short, they find the whole process threatening.
Seniors struggle for food. Actually, they struggle for what I call “the Big 3”: food, housing, and medical expenses. Forget the extras like clothing. Many seniors get less, pay more, and go without. When seniors don’t get enough to eat (and many do not), they have a tendency to get sick which creates a hardship for their children and grandchildren.
Healthcare costs can be devastating, even to a senior with Medicare. Once a person comes down with cancer or other major disease, the pocketbook empties pretty fast.
In the past, food pantries focused on shoppers in a specific location. We now serve the people who can get to us during our open hours.
At Reservoir Food Pantry, fresh vegetables are important. We recently scrounged $$$ together and bought a used long line van which volunteers drive weekly to Latham for as much produce as we can bring back. We routinely run out.
Our situation is precarious, Senator Amedore. We joke that we’re teetering on homelessness ourselves because we’re housed in a shed on a flood plain. The shed is fine. We’re desperately trying to find a place to move it to so we’ll be out of the flood plain. So far, we’ve had no luck.
-But enough of our woes, Senator Amedore. Thank you for including me in your mailing list. Thank you for the work you are doing for seniors in New York State. Thank you for sharing.
When you’re in your Kingston office on a Monday afternoon, you have an open invitation to visit our pantry. We’ll be honored and pleased to show you around our 12’x16′ shed. We serve over 140 households weekly from this shed. Most of them are seniors.
We do hope you’ll come. We promise the tour won’t take long because our pantry is small. However, the photos will be many and the seniors will be grateful.
Peace and food for all.
P.S.-If you ever need any human interest stories, I have many, many, many, and I’m happy to share.
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