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New Food Delivery Service In Madison Area Brings Pantry Items To Seniors

Pilot Program Delivers Groceries To Low-Income Adults Aged 60 And Older

Bob Gill, a volunteer with Meals on Wheels, delivers lunch to Thelma Pense
In this Thursday, May 7, 2015 photo, Bob Gill, a volunteer driver with Meals on Wheels By ACC, delivers lunch to Thelma Pense at her home in Citrus Heights, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

Seniors in the Madison area who qualify can already get ready-to-eat meals delivered to their houses through Meals on Wheels. But under a new pilot program — which began Oct. 1 — they’ll also be able to get free groceries.

Groups that advocate and help the elderly have teamed up with Madison’s largest food pantry to provide provisions to those who may lack transportation, are disabled or have other obstacles that prevent them from easily getting groceries.

“Many seniors have trouble just loading groceries into their car or back into their home,” said Katie Gallagher of NewBridge, a coalition of senior groups that is part of the food delivery program along with The River Food Pantry and RSVP of Dane County.

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More than 2,500 older adults in Madison and nearby Monona don’t get adequate nutrition, according to NewBridge. While some might be eligible for FoodShare, they aren’t currently particpating in the government nutrition assistance program, said NewBridge senior services director Sonya Lindquist, adding that others may stretch one meal they obtain from food sites or Meals on Wheels into several.

There are indications food insecurity is a growing problem. In May, The River Food Pantry started holding a lunch for older adults and veterans. The free meal drew 25 people initially and has since grown to 90 households, according to Charles McLimans, the pantry’s president.

Older adults enjoy a meal and the company of others at The River Food Pantry which began offering lunch in May 2019. Photo courtesy of The River Food Pantry

McLimans said advocates are trying to be proactive with the new food pantry delivery program — which is for those 60 years and older — because of the “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers who lack savings and can’t afford food.

The delivery program is for those whose income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $18,732 annually for an individual.

Organizers don’t know how many meals can be prepared from the groceries delivered to seniors, but expect to serve 60 older adults by next year and increase to 300 households by 2024.

The job of rounding up volunteers for the pilot program is where RSVP of Dane County comes in.

“It’s a neat program because the volunteer commitment can be as little as once a month and you’re helping someone who is low income and can’t get to the food pantry themselves, get some food to help them stay healthy and in their own homes,” said RSVP of Dane County executive director Margie Zutter.

In addition to meeting income requirements, particpants must also be a client of NewBridge which provides services to the elderly including help with chores, health care and housing.

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