United Way Affinity Groups Explore Senior Hunger through Grocery Program

(left to right) Ron Davis, Jamie McLynn. and Jessica Nix

United Way of Central Alabama’s Young Philanthropists Society and Tocqueville Society, recently met for a Bold Goals lunch and learn on the Senior Grocery program. Jessica Nix, UAB Geriatrics Clinic Social Worker, Jamie McLynn, Community Food Bank of Central Alabama Special Projects Coordinator, and Ron Davis, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Pastor led the panel.

One new solution is The Senior Grocery Program is a federal program of the USDA to provide food for senior citizens. This project is growing quickly, getting big results and bringing in federal dollars to the region.

According to McLynn, Alabama is the last state to participate in this program, although it is rated second in the nation for the highest number of food insecure seniors. As a part of this program, four food banks in Alabama, including Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, a UWCA partner agency, will receive a caseload. Community Food Bank will be able to serve 1300 seniors per week once the program launches, and the test phase is over. Senior Grocery will provide 30 pounds of groceries per month, including canned goods, milk, and cheese for a total of over 400,000 pounds of food by the end of the year. Additional benefits to the program include free recipes, senior resources, and interaction with the community.

Ryan Parker, Assistant VP of Community Impact at UWCA, shared why the Senior Grocery Program has already seen success: partnership. For example, numerous organizations involved have reached out to grocery stores in Central Alabama for free food vouchers and seen great success. Parker said, “This is an example of collaboration and making a difference in people’s lives. We wouldn’t be able to do this without amazing partnerships.”

Young Leaders and 2019 Campaign Chair, Jeff Stone

Davis shared 18% of seniors in Walker County are under 125% of the poverty level. To try to help fight food insecurity, Mount Vernon Baptist currently feeds 96 individuals and 12 on the waitlist. They are also open to the public every third Saturday for a food bank. Mount Vernon will be a site for the Senior Grocery program once it officially launches. Ron said, “It’s a true joy and privilege to interface the community.” Davis is also hoping in the future the Senior Grocery Program, which has already brought in over $100,000 in resources, will provide food specific to the diet of seniors with diseases such as diabetes.

Nix discussed how UAB got involved with fighting senior hunger. Two years ago, the hospital added screening questions for patients on food insecurity, where they found out a large number of older patients were. Since then, UAB has been providing food for patients. Those recipients are extremely grateful and now look forward to coming into the clinic. “Before this program, many patients I see would have to choose between food, medicine, and utilities and the majority chose to do away with food,” Jessica said.

United Way of Central Alabama serves Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount, and St. Clair counties by providing solutions for the most important needs in the community. Through our partner agencies and community initiatives, we improve lives and community conditions by building and mobilizing resources. United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. For more information, visit www.uwca.org.