By Anita Farris Food Insecurity Solutions Coordinator at Eastern Area Agency on Aging
I work for EAAA as the Food Insecurity Solutions Coordinator. EAAA provides services designed to help raise the quality of life for seniors living in Eastern Maine. We value our partnership with Thrive Penobscot because it helps us connect with the people in our community who could use our services.
I wanted to share a story of a woman EAAA recently helped get the services she needed because she was dealing with food insecurity. Her name has been changed to protect her privacy. Stories like Susan’s are becoming more and more common today in Maine. EAAA works hard every day to connect people like Susan to programs and resources that will help them live a better life.
Susan was referred to me in August of this year after she fell and injured her leg. The same leg had been previously broken before. When she fell this time, she also injured her hand. She was using a cane to ambulate before she fell, but now because of her injuries, she was barely able to get around at all. Susan was also struggling with COPD symptoms. To put it simply, Susan needed help.
Susan said she was having trouble getting her groceries and the things she needed because she could not carry them. She was going without groceries because she was unable to go to get them, and she could not afford the travel costs either. She said she was unable to visit the food pantries and they did not deliver, so she was out of luck in that department as well. She said she did not have supports in place to help her. She also only received $16.00 in SNAP benefits each month. The other problem Susan was facing was that she did not have the physical stamina to prepare what little food she had. Susan had pets and stated that she had to make sure they were fed before feeding herself.
When I conducted the Food Insecurity Assessment, Susan mentioned that she used to receive Commodity Supplemental Food Program or CSFP, but when she was unable to pick up the food, she was removed from the program. After she was removed, Susan said she wasn’t sure if it was possible to re-sign up for the program. She was also unaware of any home-delivered meal programs. I referred Susan to a local Meals On Wheels (MOW) program. Also, as a result of the assessment, I helped Susan get reinstated for her CSFP. Because of Susan’s situation, we were able to get her CSFP delivered when she gets her MOW delivery.
EAAA also put Susan on the waiting list for the Furry Friends Foodbank Program. The Furry Friends Food Bank was created to help seniors and adults with disabilities feed their pets. With donated pet food, FFFB is able to provide supplemental nutrition to these animals. Furry Friends Food Bank is dedicated to preserving the special bond between people and their pets by providing pet food and basic pet care supplies to those in need. FFFB recognizes that the love, support, and companionship pets give is invaluable to mental and physical health. This is especially true for someone who is ill or isolated.
In October, a Follow-up Food Insecurity Solutions survey was conducted. Susan is doing well. She is still recuperating from her injuries. Susan now has MOW along with her CSFP. She has even visited the local food pantry on the way to her doctor’s office with the help of the Lynx Transportation Program, which EAAA referred her to. During her follow-up assessment, Susan stated, “Thank you for your help, I didn’t realize how much money you and your programs have and are saving me. I would never have made it through this time without your help. I think I am gonna be OK now. “
The Food Insecurity Solutions Program aims to reduce food insecurity and provide resources to make a long-term solution attainable. The reasons a senior is not eating well are varied and can range from lack of money, inability to stand to cook, transportation issues, etc. FIS examines the barriers and matches them with a plan that empowers the consumer to reduce the obstacles through the use of resources, education, and coordination. FIS is a program that is working to end empty plates.
There are many ways to have a FIS assessment conducted. The EAAA.org website has an online quiz where you can take the quiz and request a full assessment, clinics are held at various place in the community, or you can call and leave a message on the call line and someone will get in touch with you to either do the assessment with you over the phone and/or make an appointment.