Regional Food Bank program fights senior hunger 

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Hunger is not just a problem in third-world countries. Oklahoma seniors are among those battling hunger, and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma fights for them.

Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 for states battling food insecurity among seniors. This spring, the food bank conducts its Senior Match program in which donations made through April 30 are matched dollar for dollar up to $120,000 by the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation and two anonymous donors. The money will specifically be used to help provide food to seniors.

Rodney Bivens, executive director, said over the years, the food bank has learned older residents often rely on Social Security to fund retirement and discover they can’t make ends meet.

“We have discovered many seniors are having to make choices of whether they can afford to put food on their table or get their prescriptions,” Bivens said. “Those are decisions they shouldn’t have to make. We estimate there’s around 27,000 food-insecure seniors in Oklahoma, and we’re committed to trying to make sure they have enough food.”

The food bank directly serves seniors through three programs: mobile pantry, home delivery and mobile market. Each month, the mobile pantry provides food to 1,000 seniors via nine Oklahoma City Housing Authority sites and one Norman Housing Authority site. The home delivery program serves 29 sites throughout 53 counties and reaches 1,200 seniors a month. The monthly mobile market maintains 18 locations across the OKC metro and provides food boxes to about 1,300 seniors.

Altogether, Bivens said Regional Food Bank helps about 5,300 seniors a month, and through its 350 partner agencies located in 53 counties, it reaches another 8,000.

In total, around 12,000 to 14,000 seniors receive food, he said, and about half are identified as food insecure. It’s challenging to reach the other half because most are isolated, live alone in rural areas and haven’t identified themselves.

Senior hunger has serious health ramifications.

“I have a saying: ‘Our seniors gave us a New Deal, and they deserve a better deal,’” Bivens said. “And the challenge with not having adequate food for a senior is that it creates real implications for chronic diseases where they end up having to have more medications, more hospitalizations and more doctor visits because they’re not eating properly.”

To reach more seniors, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma wants to partner with more senior programs to expand its mobile markets (pop-up grocery stores). It helps seniors attain food and gives them opportunities to socialize.

“It’s a larger and larger challenge to reach seniors,” Bivens said.

Regional Food Bank seeks funds and volunteers. Call 405-972-1111 or visit regionalfoodbank.org for more information.

Print Headline: Sharing security, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma seeks donations and volunteers during its spring Senior Match program.
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