It’s been just over one month since we opened a Food Choice Pantry day just for Seniors! Due to the pandemic, we’ve only been able to welcome a few neighbors into the food choice pantry at a time. This limit has meant people sometimes have to wait. Over the summer, we couldn’t bear to see our elders out in the sweltering sun.
“I would look at these seniors and think, ‘that could be my mom, my father, or a relative,’ and I wouldn’t want them out there in the heat,” explained Maria Nieves, our Emergency Services coordinator. She quickly began gathering names from senior neighbors who would be interested in coming to a Seniors-only day early in the morning and by appointment. Soon, she had dozens of names on the list.
We’ve been welcoming about 33 Seniors every week since we started,” Maria says. When they come, she makes sure to chat with them, hear how they’re doing. “I make sure to call everyone by their first name and hear how they’re doing. They really love that. You know a lot of seniors are appreciative of someone to talk to and connect with.”
Many of the elders who come to the day live with family and work busily helping to take care of the family. Most of them play a caregiving role for their household — cooking, cleaning, watching children, and doling out advice. Coming to the food choice pantry and getting to select fresh food for their families brings smiles and relief for many.
“The vegetables and fruits make them happiest,” Maria says, noting that many of those fruits and vegetables come from The Simple Way’s own garden. She also knows that beyond the food available, the most important part of the experience is choice. “We’re the only food pantry in our zip code who let you come in and choose your own groceries,” Maria explains, “most places you come in and they hand you a box of food. Even though we’re smaller than some of the other places nearby, we offer an amazing variety. It gives the residents a lot of choices.”
The fresh food cares for neighborhood health, as does the social connection that the Seniors’ day offers. “When the Seniors come to our office, they chat with each other. I always work to make them laugh,” Maria says. “It’s good for their health.”
Maria, and the rest of our staff, don’t take our neighbors’ good health for granted. Covid-19 has been tough on the community. Just recently, Maria learned that one of her Seniors passed away due to Covid-19. The challenges have only made Maria more determined to make sure Seniors smile and laugh when they come.
“Sometimes they tell me I don’t act my age,” she says, “but I just say good, I’m not supposed to. We only have one life and we have to live it. We don’t know how much time we have left, so we may as well joke and have fun with each other while we can.”
The Seniors’ day at our Food Choice Pantry is just one way we’re building community connection and fighting food insecurity. Support from people like you has kept us going strong and working hard to love our neighbors in ways big and small. Thank you!