Millions of seniors across the country are going hungry -- and that's no different in Merced County.
Phyllis Legg, executive director for the Merced County Food Bank, said there are some seniors in the county who are living in poverty. She said the income for many seniors in the area ranges from $300 to $1,000 a month.
Because of their low monthly incomes, many must choose between paying their bills, paying for their health care or buying food, according to Legg. "The majority of the seniors will opt out of food," she added.
The Silicon Valley and Peninsula Comfort Keepers has launched a nationwide campaign to stop senior hunger. The campaign began in September, Hunger Action Month, and will last through Thanksgiving. The Comfort Keepers is a franchise network in the in-home care market for seniors and adults who need care.
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The franchise has asked local communities to donate food for seniors and to help create awareness of the growing issue.
Margaret Ortiz, with Comfort Keepers in Merced, said the local office already is working with the county food bank to spread awareness about what seniors are facing. One out of three seniors in America faces malnutrition, she said. "It's just appalling what's happening with seniors," she added.
The county food bank has a program to help feed seniors in the area, but the state cut the funding for it last October. According to Legg, the Brown Bag program provides a bag of food for needy seniors twice a month. As a result of the loss of state money, the food bank began to charge seniors a $30 fee a year to continue to receive the bags with food. "It's not something we wanted to do, but we had to" to keep the program running for the seniors to have food, she said. "Our seniors are important to us."
However, there are seniors who can't afford to pay the annual $30 fee, she said. To help address that issue, the food bank began its Adopt a Senior program.
Legg said anybody can adopt a senior for the same fee, which will provide two monthly bags of food for the senior they adopt. The food items in the bags include whole grain breads, dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables, cookies and juice, among other items.
Some 50 seniors have been adopted this year. According to Legg, a total of 1,600 seniors receive the brown bags throughout Merced County.
A total of 3,200 bags are distributed each month, she added.
According to Ortiz, the Merced-based Comfort Keepers will help the county food bank recruit companies to adopt seniors.
To adopt a senior, visit www.mercedcountyfoodbank.org
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.