Pat Sorrell is one of 35,000 people who receive help from the Partnership each year.
“At first I was embarrassed that I had to have help. Because I’ve always helped other people,” Sorrell said.
The help the program provides helps seniors like Sorrell lead an independent life.
“We work with elderly and disabled residents in their homes. We also work with those in public housing. And a lot of them need assistance with medication, food, sometimes just the basic needs of toilet paper, paper towels, washing powder, soap, so when we’re able to assist them with food it kind of frees up a little of their money to get those basic needs,” said Kendra Brabham, program manager for the Partnership’s Elder Services program.
The Elder Services program works with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank to provide its clients with a box of food once a month.
“It’s a huge need. Unfortunately right now we’re only able to help about 50, 55 of our clients with our pantry that we have here in house. And then we help several during the month with food vouchers from the food bank,” Brabham said.
“The grocery box once a month is a lifesaver,” Sorrell said. “And I think they measure how much protein they’re putting in the box and things like that. If they don’t have much meat, they’ll have beans or something like that where you get protein. And it really helps a lot.”
A Feeding America reportshows in 2013, 5.4 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure, which amounts to 9 percent of all senior adults in the U.S. That number is expected to increase by 50 percent when the youngest baby boomers reach the age of 60 in 2025.
“Some of our clients don’t live near a store. So getting to a grocery store is really not an option. They have to pay somebody or take a cab, which runs up quite a fee, and then they’re again left with not having the money to purchase the items that are needed,” Brabham said.
The grocery boxes also help ensure senior clients receive essential nutrients.
“Sometimes we get fresh vegetables, which many of them can’t afford, they don’t purchase fruits and vegetables because it’s just not an option for them,” Brabham said.
Case workers also meet a much bigger need: companionship.
“[My case worker] sits down and without really coming out and saying, ‘Do you have any problems?’ She talks to me long enough that she knows what’s going on in my life and it’s so wonderful to have someone that I know cares,” Sorrell said.
The alliance with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank is vital to the Partnership’s mission.
“It is a much-needed service and we are very grateful for those who donate to the food bank who will actually help support this pantry,” Brabham said.
Community support through donations to programs like Share Your Christmas makes it all possible for clients like Sorrell.
“If you don’t have any food, and there was no food bank, what would you do? I mean, that’s it for people who don’t have anything,” she said.