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LBFPD: An Evidence-Based Approach to Fighting Senior Hunger & Malnutrition


Established in November 2020 by the community non-profit, Help Me Help You, Long Beach

Food Pantry Delivery (LBFPD) is an Evidence-Based Program determined to fight the growing levels of senior hunger and malnutrition. This program protects the Long Beach, California community by providing free weekly nutritious fresh and packaged groceries with recipes, as well as nutrition and community service information home-delivered to almost 500 seniors in need.


BACKGROUND

Established in 2002, Help Me Help You (HMHY) is a 501(c)(3) Long Beach, California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those in need by increasing access to food, public benefits, economic security, and social security benefits. HMHY provides free essential services to more than 53,000 individuals annually, focusing on seniors; children; single mothers; disabled individuals; veterans; and the homeless. These services work to reduce hunger and poverty, improve nutrition and health, boost family economic security, as well as motivate and transition residents from lives of poverty to self-sufficiency.


Seniors make the fastest-growing groups suffering from food insecurity in the USA. Many battle with mobility issues, preventing them from accessing desperately needed nutritious food or they prioritize their income on rent and medications before food, while others struggle with shame and are silent. Some seniors are also more likely to face hunger due to racial and economic inequality; especially seniors that identify as African American or Latino, have lower incomes; or have a disability. In 2020 (the most recent year for available data), 5.2 million seniors aged 60+ faced hunger - that's 1 in 15 seniors. This can put seniors at risk of health-related conditions like depression, asthma, diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses.1


LBFPD launched in response to the increased demand for food pantries tripling in a COVID environment, and concerns around our most vulnerable senior hungry community accessing free food services safely. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many food pantry locations closed or transitioned to drive-thru services, while most elderly adhered to stay-at-home orders or were not able to travel to food pantry locations.

“With the increase in residents lining up at our food pantry locations for essential groceries, the surge in COVID-19 infections and stay-at-home orders, we had to find a way to service our more compromised residents, and food pantry delivery was the logical progression”, said Ms. Washington, HMHY Executive Director.


Long Beach seniors aged at least 60 years old or over 50 (with an underlying health condition, including COVID) are invited to register for LBFPD via a questionnaire and follow-up phone interview. Those that qualify, select their preferred delivery day and time as well as dietary preferences from a variety of fresh and packaged grocery items in the Five Food Groups. Clients also receive weekly recipes; nutritional information; a needs analysis; and can access free benefit enrollment services for Calfresh, Medical, and General Relief, as well as links to housing services. All services are available in English or Spanish via translated materials and Spanish-speaking Benefits Access Support Specialists. This service has been life-changing and even lifesaving for some.


“I would take three buses and walk over an hour to get my food pantry groceries until I became too weak to make the trip. Thank God for HMHY, who are kindly delivering my food pantry selection of groceries to my door. I don’t know how I would survive without them”, said Thelma, LBFPD client.


Currently, the program requires two delivery trucks and full-time staff to deliver to senior clients in the Long Beach service area.


PROCESS TO LAUNCH THE PROGRAM

As a renowned food pantry expert in Long Beach, with over 20 years of experience and 10 current school and community food pantry locations under its belt, HMHY was up for the job to launch a successful senior pantry delivery service.


Once the need was evident, funding was required to launch the program. Fortunately, The City of Long Beach received Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and HMHY also received emergency funding from various sources. This supported the launch of the program and provided a wide selection of nutritious foods.


Due to limited funding allocations, marketing this vital service has been restricted to social media posts, word of mouth, and community service referral partners. Within the first 6 months, LBFPD serviced 300 seniors and today serves close to 500 residents in 11 Long Beach zip codes. On average four new registrations are received each week. Word has even spread across the nation to New York, where residents have contacted HMHY to request this life-changing service.


SUCCESSES

As supported by the findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) in The Community Guide 2, LBFPD has grown as an evidence-based approach to directly fight senior hunger and malnutrition, increase energy intake and improve health-related quality of life.


Despite the reduction in food provided and a transition to a bi-weekly delivery since grants decreased in November 2021, HMHY conducted an LBFPD Hunger & Nutrition Impact Client Survey in October 2022, that continues to support the findings 3. The results still revealed a substantial reduction in hunger and malnutrition. Over 96% of clients reported they are less hungry and more food secure, 91% are eating healthier, 79% have more energy and 78% reported improvements in their health. Due to a variety of fresh and packaged groceries as well as nutritional information and recipes provided, 89% report an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, 84% have tried new foods, and 79% have an increase in awareness of nutrition and healthy eating. LBFPD has also helped improve 92% of clients’ lifestyles by reducing food expenses to allow them to pay for other living costs. Over 83% also report their Medical Dietary Requirements are being met. Furthermore, racial minorities make up approximately 80% of LBFPD clients, with 83% reporting their cultural food preferences are being met, making them more likely to consume foods. 3


“Without Long Beach Food Pantry Delivery, I would struggle to buy groceries and survive. This service is a great reliever of stress and anxiety off my mind and body, during this inflation and pandemic fearful time! HMHY are life savers and real angels. I pray they continue this wonderful service to give seniors the freedom and hope to live our best life”, J. B. Hernandez, LBFPD client.


CHALLENGES

Economic Environment & Growing Need: It’s anticipated, with the soaring inflation of 2022, that additional seniors will suffer from hunger. More than 11% of seniors over age 65 live below the poverty line in Long Beach, CA and this is expected to grow to 22% by 2025. 4


There is no doubt that the need for this service is growing within the service area of Long Beach and beyond. HMHY is hopeful this will create more funding opportunities to feed the senior community in need.


Limited/Lack of Funding & Grant Opportunities: Unfortunately, since pandemic related emergency funding ended, the program now relies on corporate sponsorship which has reduced its delivery service frequency as well as the amount and variety of foods provided. Clients reported that at the commencement of the program they enjoyed a wider selection of food which sustained them for longer periods.

It’s challenging for HMHY to obtain funding for the program since Request For Proposal (RFP) grants that consider the criteria of LBFPD have not been identified. Additional funding is required to purchase food that meets the client's dietary and cultural needs.


Lack of Awareness: Registrations are growing weekly via limited social media and viral marketing as well as referral partners, however, there remains a substantial potential to increase marketing efforts to gain more awareness for seniors to access the service.

LESSONS LEARNED/PLANS

It is evident from the growth of the program, registration needs analysis, survey results, and client satisfaction that the demand for this service continues to grow. The lack of adequate funding has stifled its potential to feed more seniors in need and further improve their nutritional intake with a wider variety and volume of nutritious foods, as well as a greater frequency of deliveries.

Secure Adequate Funding: To keep and grow this vital service and to provide a variety of adequate foods that meet medical and dietary guidelines, HMHY must secure sufficient funding. The service currently requires $120,000 of support funding to operate.


Expansion: Once the challenges are addressed, LBFPD can grow to service more Long Beach seniors in need and expand beyond the city limits to other parts of Los Angeles and California.


Include Readymade Meals: The survey also revealed that 16% of clients cannot prepare meals independently, 49% have caregivers, 71% live alone, and 63% require assistive devices when shopping or preparing food. 3 This creates a need for the inclusion of readymade meals as well as the current fresh and packaged groceries.


Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food ….” 5


REFERENCES



Retrieved 10/31/2022


4 United States Census Bureau www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/longbeachcitycalifornia/IPE120221,



UPDATE: see Community Guide In Action Story, December 19th 2022: Non-Profit Helps Older Adults in Long Beach with Food Insecurities



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