HANFORD — It’s becoming increasingly common for seniors to face food insecurity – not knowing where their next meal will come form – in America, but thanks to the a partnership between the Kings County Commission on Aging and Hanford Parks and Recreation, local seniors can always mark at least one trip to the “grocery” on their calendar.
On the first Wednesday of every month, the KCCOA hosts a free food bank from 9 a.m. to noon at the Longfield Center, 560 S. Douty St.
“It’s a really big help to me and my grandchildren love it,” 60-year-old Edna Harmon said. “They love when I bring home oranges and plums and avocados. They love it. Their mother said to me, ‘That’s old people stuff you’re going out to do’ and I said, ‘sure, it’s old people stuff but when I come back, you’re the first to go through it.’”
Harmon visits the food bank every month, she said, to pick up food for herself and her daughter, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Since retiring, Harmon’s income has been reduced to less than half of what it was, but thanks to the KCCOA’s food bank as well as others hosted by organizations like the Salvation Army, Koinonia Church and the Kings Community Action Organization among others, she said she rarely, if ever, has to spend money on groceries.
According to Feeding America, which serves Kings, Fresno, Kern, Madera and Tulare counties through the Central California Food Bank, 63 percent of the senior households they serve are forced to choose between food and medical care. Since 2001, the number of food-insecure seniors nearly doubled. Annually, the organization distributes nearly 30 million meals.
The Central California Food Bank provides the KCCOA with the meals they distribute at the Longfield Center each month and the food provided usually consists of produce, juice, citrus fruits, vegetables, lettuce, carrots and potatoes and bread among other rotating items.
Each month, the KCCOA’s food bank serves about 500 people a month, about 80 percent of whom are seniors. The number of customers served by the free food bank jumped by about 100 over the holiday season, according to executive director Bobbie Wartson.
Each month, KCCOA distributes about 12,000 pounds of food on a first-come-first-served basis. Customers do not need to bring proof of age or income, though first-timers must fill out a brief questionnaire.
“We have a wonderful partnership with Parks and Recreation,” Wartson said.
As of shortly after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, over 200 people had already signed in to receive groceries and such a large number of people necessitates a large number of volunteers to unlock trucks, bag and distribute food and carry that food to customers’ vehicles.
Many of the seniors struggle getting the food back to their cars, especially if they are in poor health or if they’re picking up food for more than one household, as many do.
The event currently has 25-30 regular volunteers but organizers are seeking more to help facilitate the growing turnout.
“You’ll hear people telling their friends about it weeks in advance and reminding them when it is. It’s cool to hear that buzz,” KCAO employee Eden Brock said.
For more information, call 559-852-2828 or visit www.kccoa.org.