By Luise Gleason, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Once a month, the residents at Judson Terrace Homes, a living complex for low-income seniors, get together for our Senior Food Distribution. This event does not only supply them with the food they need but also offers a great way to socialize and talk to each other. Many are thankful for the support they receive because they do not own a car which, in addition to financial difficulties, limits their ability to provide for themselves.
Three of the individuals that enjoy the social gathering before the start of the food distribution are Ashawna, Debi and Bryan. Debi has just moved to Judson Terrace and is attending for the first time. She has heard others praise the fresh fruits and vegetables and is looking forward to receiving some for herself. Ashawna on the other hand is close to celebrating her first anniversary. She has missed the very first food distribution right after she moved in but has come here for every other one since then.
When Ashawna was raising and homeschooling her daughter, she struggled to make enough money to get by so she accepted support from the local food bank. In return, she volunteered at food distributions that her church organized. “I remember that we purchased a large quantity of food from the food bank for only a fraction of the money you would pay at a grocery store,” she recalled. “Then my church turned around and made that food available for everyone in the community.” This wonderful experience during that time showed Ashawna the great impact human actions of generosity and kindness can have on everyone involved. When her daughter was in her teenage years, Ashawna encouraged her to volunteer in the food bank’s warehouse because she wanted her to understand the work, logistics and resources that go into a community’s support network. Even now, as a senior living at Judson Terrace Homes, Ashawna wants to volunteer at the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County because she is eager to continue giving back.
Social services coordinator Francine Martinez is at the heart of the monthly food distributions and puts her passion into organizing and directing the event. She is well regarded among the residents not only because she keeps the process orderly but also for her caring and empathetic nature. A few days before the distributions, Francine puts a note on every front door of the more than one hundred apartments to remind everyone of the event. “The notes are so lovely that I take mine and stick it on the inside of my door until the day of the food distribution arrives,” notes Ashawna. Another lady named Dale said that these notes help many of the residents with memory problems remember to come.
Just like Ashawna, Dale used to take her children to help hand groceries to people in need, but she never expected that one day she would find herself on the receiving end. Now she understands how much the support she gave back then must have meant to the individuals she served. To stretch the food she has now, Dale juices much of the produce she gets and uses the remaining pulp for jams, bread or yogurt. Both Dale and Ashawna are always excited to get dairy products and meat. Whenever they get chicken, Ashawna makes soup and freezes small portions so that she has meals ready to eat whenever she has nothing else.
Food Bank Coalition nutrition educators are often present to hand out samples and recipes to show residents like Ashawna and Dale what else they can do with the produce and shelf-stable items they receive. On a hot day in September, this meant refreshing apple sauce. Last time, the samples included hamburgers – an item that Dale still raves about because good meat is expensive and unaffordable for many.
Food Distributions like the one at Judson Terrace Homes are only possible because our community believes that each day everyone should have not only enough food to eat, but that it should include healthy options as well. The combined efforts of support services like this often spiral back and inspire recipients and their families to give back whenever they are able to. And just like this, a community begins to take care of its own.