Food Runners

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Growing Needs of Seniors

Susan Kobayashi, Volunteer

Volunteer Andrew D. picking food for delivery to seniors
Helping seniors to live healthy, fulfilling lives has been a long-time aspiration of mine.  Until my grandmother’s generation, households in our family were multi-generational.  As family members became elderly and in need of support, they were seamlessly cared for by the rest of the family, particularly the woman and girls in the family.  My grandmother had cared for both of her husband’s parents until their death.  But when she herself became elderly, after my grandfather’s death, she was living alone.  My parents put her in a senior care facility.  She died within a year.

Some facts about seniors in San Francisco:
  • Seniors currently represent 19% of San Francisco’s overall population, higher than the national average.  And that number is rising.  By 2037, there will be 100,000 more seniors in San Francisco than there are today.
  • Many live alone, far from their children.  City polls taken throughout the past decade show that only 24 percent of San Francisco elders had children living within 20 minutes travel, compared with 40 percent in other major cities.  
  • About a quarter of San Francisco's senior citizens are considered poor because they live at or below 150 percent of the $860 federal poverty income level, which equals about $1,300 a month. 
  • Approximately 50,000 seniors do not get enough to eat on a regular basis.

The largest organization to support senior independent living, Meals on Wheels, delivered 2 million meals to 4,500 seniors across the city in 2017.  Along with the delivery of meals, they conduct safety checks every day and offer nutrition counseling, social work such as home visits and referrals to outside services.  They also utilize volunteers to visit with seniors to reduce isolation and assist them with daily needs.  They help with improving home safety by distributing grab bars, smoke detectors, microwaves and refrigerators.

Food Runners helps feed seniors by bringing food to a variety of facilities.  
Currently, Food Runners serves over 35 senior programs on a regular basis including subsidized housing residences like Dorothy Day Community, Mission Terrace, and Sala Burton; drop-in centers such as Curry Senior Center, Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center and Downtown Senior Center and group homes such as Rypin’s House and Golden Gate for Seniors. 

Loading donations at Kaiser for delivery to Zygmut Arendt House
I first became aware of Food Runners and its mission in November of last year through Mary Risley, the organization’s founder.  My first runs were to Mercy Terrace, a facility for low-income seniors.  Taking perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste and bringing it to those who need it is a way that I can make an immediate impact.  I have served on a number of nonprofit boards but feeding people by making regular and ad hoc runs as well as helping out at volunteer and major donor appreciation events brings me closer to addressing a vital need.  Small as it may be, I want to do what I can to alleviate one of the critical problems created by the increasing wealth gap in this city.