As older adults retire, many face increased pressure on their budgets. The cost of healthcare and other basic living expenses leaves little money left for healthy, fresh food. Even in communities where food insecurity is uncommon, older people living on fixed incomes often struggle to afford the nutritious food they need to maintain their health. “Senior need is a little different from the general population,” says Stuart Tucker, Older Adults Program Coordinator for the Food Depository. “They don’t have the same resources as the community they’re living in.” As older adults make up a growing proportion of the population, this need is expected to grow.
To respond to the unique need among older adults, the Food Depository partners with community organizations to make healthy food available in convenient locations. Older Adult Choice Markets offer food and togetherness for people aged 60 and above.
Every other Thursday at the Pav YMCA in Berwyn, volunteers laugh and chat as they prepare to welcome more than 200 people to the food distribution. Boxes of bananas, oranges, and tomatoes line the gym. Many of the volunteers learned about the Older Adult Choice Market while participating in the YMCA’s Seniors Program. They find joy both in volunteering and in receiving food from the market.
Kathy Fletcher has volunteered at the market since it began in early 2017. “You meet all these different people, give them a smile and hope you’re making a difference in their day,” she says. Her husband Laddie helps people carry their bags of food out to their cars. The couple also delivers food from the market to a homebound neighbor who is being treated for cancer.
Volunteering together is part of Kathy and Laddie’s weekly routine: they spend the morning at a swimming aerobics class in the YMCA before helping out with the market. They stay until the last guests have visited the market to help with folding up boxes and tidying the gym – “the glamorous side,” Kathy laughs.
Kathy and Laddie also receive food from the market. “We’re older, so it helps with the grocery bills,” she says. “It’s been a positive experience for us.”
Fellow volunteer Kathleen Kestica agrees that items from the Older Adult Market help her manage her monthly grocery budget. “We get a lot of nutritional stuff here,” she says. Kathleen cares for her 91 year old mother at home. Her mother has many dietary restrictions, and food from the market helps her care for her health. Fresh fruits like bananas and cantaloupe from the market are favorites in their household.
Stuart Tucker manages food orders for the Older Adult Markets. “We try to find items that are easy for people to use. We focus on common dietary restrictions like low-salt and heart-healthy items,” he says. The Older Adult Markets offer recipes to assist clients with preparing food that may be new to them. Local agencies also provide assistance with health care and benefits enrollment at the market.
For volunteers like Kathy, Laddie and Kathleen, the market offers an opportunity to give back to their neighbors while receiving support with their monthly grocery budgets. Learn more about our programs for older adults.