Senior Hunger in Imperial Valley
For many Imperial Valley seniors living on fixed incomes, they must take care of everything else before prioritizing their nutrition. Summer months are especially dangerous for seniors as they pay for increased electric bills due to the heat. Add in the rising prices of food, medical expenses, and the cost of supporting family members like grandchildren, and our seniors are facing an extremely difficult situation.
Isabel, a senior from Calexico, shared, “I make food for my grandchildren during the week and take them to school to help my son. My husband and I have a small pension, so this food helps us a lot.”
Seniors should not have to worry about where their next meal comes from or how they will feed their grandchildren. One in five seniors live in poverty in Imperial Valley, and without a steady source of nutritious food, they are at risk for malnutrition and hospitalization.
Studies from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research suggest this number is even higher, with many seniors classified as the ‘hidden poor’ - those who live above the federal poverty level and often do not qualify for public assistance, but still struggle to pay their expenses. The study found that among older couples, Imperial County had a significantly higher rate of hidden poor than any other county — “43.4 percent of older couples did not have enough income to make ends meet.”
The Imperial Valley Food Bank has multiple programs to help our seniors facing food insecurity.
Food Distributions – We distribute food each month to 25,000 people at over 30 locations throughout Imperial Valley.
Senior Food Program – Seniors over the age of 60 can receive a 35-pound box of food to supplement their diet. We currently have over 700 seniors in this program.
CalFresh Outreach – Our bilingual outreach staff helps seniors navigate the process of applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides older adults with significant food purchasing power every month and helps them maintain their independence.
With your support, we can continue to provide these important programs. Donate today and consider giving monthly to support our programs year-round!
Read stories from Imperial Valley seniors below!
Maria is retired, and she and her sister take care of her brother Gauino. Maria and Gauino receive Social Security Income, but it is not enough to make ends meet. Through our food distribution site in Calipatria and our Senior Nutritious Food Box program, they are able to get enough food to support a nutritious diet.
Maria and Gauino arrive at our distributions early because they like to be the first ones in line. They enjoy receiving a variety of food so they can make different recipes. Recently, they made mole with the rice and chicken they received, and are looking forward to making barbacoa with cans of beef. Maria says, “The senior program has made a difference because it means we can receive more food and sometimes different foods, like cheese.”
They have told many of their friends in need, who are now receiving food as well. They know the power of word-of-mouth and letting people know about a great service. “They don’t know how much it helps. After they go, they say, you know you guys were right,” Maria said. Even though the lines can be long, Maria and Gauino believe it is worth it because it helps so much. She still goes to the grocery store about twice a month for things like dish soap, but doesn't have to worry about staple foods like rice or oatmeal.
Maria also enjoys the environment at the food distributions. She says it’s a chance for people to get together and socialize, and it’s a happy place. She explained that in Calipatria there are a lot of farmworkers that work early Monday through Saturday who can’t always pick up the food. The community will come together to pick up each other’s food in these situations. “There are times when if my friend has a doctor’s appointment, I’ll use her card to pick up her food for her.”
Maria and Gauino are incredible examples of the supportive community here in Imperial Valley. When asked about taking care of her brother, Maria said these types of morals were passed down from her parents and are necessary and important.
*Maria and Gauino were interviewed in Spanish. This story has been summarized and translated to English.
Rosa*, an elderly woman living at a senior apartment complex in Calexico, recently shared her story with us. At an outreach event at the apartment complex, our staff noticed that she looked extremely sad. Our Outreach Specialist began talking to her and explained the services our food bank offers, specifically how we help with the CalFresh application. She was surprised to know these resources existed.
Her husband recently passed away and she had been lonely and depressed trying to adjust to her new life. Her only income at the time was social security benefits through her husband. Her monthly expenses like rent, electricity, gas, water and food leave her struggling to make ends meet.
After listening to her struggles and explaining the process on how to apply for benefits, we helped her fill out the intake questionnaire. After following up with her about her application, we were happy to hear she was approved and receiving food benefits that will allow her to maintain a nutritional diet.
She expressed that she was very grateful for the information given to her at this outreach event and wishes these types of events occurred more often since they provide helpful resources. She also said the event helped her get out of her apartment and meet our staff and her neighbors at a time when she was feeling overcome with loneliness.
*name changed for privacy
While attending an event specifically targeted to seniors, Diane* approached our Outreach Specialist at our resource table with informational flyers. We had helped Diane a few months before with her CalFresh application. Our Outreach Specialist asked if she had been approved since we had not heard back from her.
Diane responded that she did not get approved and could not understand why since her income was not enough to make ends meet. The Outreach Specialist told her that we could try applying again but Diane felt discouraged and said it would just be a waste of time. After support, encouragement, and advice from our Outreach Specialist, Diane decided to reapply for the program.
Our Outreach Specialist called Diane after a few weeks to get an update on her case, and Diane expressed that she was so happy and surprised because she qualified for benefits! Diane said, “I will be able to buy food I have never been able to purchase before. Thank you for helping me reapply.”
*name changed for privacy