I first met her outside the shed at the Reservoir Food Pantry. A recent widow, I heard her comment “I just never knew how hard it was going to be as a widow.” Her husband died just over a year ago and she’s still making her way toward accepting her new reality.
“I never knew it would be so difficult…being alone like this. I’ll never tell my children I come here. I don’t want them to know.”
As she spoke, she wiped an occasional tear while moving through the pantry line with a group of women, all about her own age. They were choosing corn and apples, squashes, greens, onions, potatoes. As the line snaked forward, she turned her attention to the canned goods: beans, soup, fruits, veggies.
Pat hasn’t made it to the food stamp office in Kingston. For one thing, it’s a good half hour down Route 28. For another, she’s afraid:
of the forms,
the humiliation of being unable to survive on her own,
the long wait in a building she may not even be able to find,
finally, she’s afraid of the whole process which she finds frightening.
Her financial situation isn’t so far from all the other older women in the pantry line. Grocery shopping for the elderly is difficult under the best of circumstances. Getting to the grocery store can be challenging for older people – getting around in the parking lot and going up and down the grocery store aisles is no fun anymore. And, then, when they can’t find what they need, they have to maneuver the muddy parking area and the scary entrance ramp at the pantry. And…we haven’t even discussed the packages yet. They’ve got to be gotten home and in the house (wherever and whatever that is).
Finally, getting high quality, affordable food is more and more difficult as the days go by. And, as difficult as it is for Pat, she’s one of the lucky ones. She’s got a working automobile.
Combine the lack of a working automobile, bad weather, not enough $$$ and you’ve got the makings of a disaster for a senior.
I keep telling everyone who’ll listen that seniors should get their SNAP card, a list of nearby pantries, and their first social security check at the same time. So far, nobody has listened. Of course not. Why should they? We’ve all got gray hair.
Seniors struggle with the big 3:
Forget the extras like clothing. As seniors, we get less, pay more, and go without. When I need something new to wear, I go to the boutique of my closet.
Healthcare costs can be devastating, even to a senior with medicare. Once a person comes down with cancer or other expensive disease, the pocketbook empties pretty fast.
There is real pressure to feed the rising tide of hungry people at every pantry. We get questionnaires periodically from different agencies wanting to know how often we run out of food. How does “weekly” sound?
The Big 3 for pantries include:
deep cuts in social spending programs.
Pantries, for the most part, are
when it comes to deciding who can and cannot receive food. There are simply too many agencies with too many people standing in line for too little food for any food bank or state office to properly oversee and supervise the selection process.
As far as feeding the hungry, we’re not even coming close to filling the need created by the widespread poverty and deep spending cuts. People in food pantry lines are, in a severe winter, choosing between eating and heating.
Our pantry, housed in a shed, an old green house, and the back of a restaurant is a ragtag emergency food movement which is in reality not emergency at all.
Lines and crowds outside our pantry on Monday afternoons can easily convince any onlooker that the good old U S of A has a food problem.
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Peace and food for all.