Meal Distribution Programs Struggling To Keep Up With Demand

A growing number of public agencies and nonprofits are unable to process new applications for food delivery, sending vulnerable senior citizens to waiting lists

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As the demand for food delivery sky rockets across San Diego, many low income senior citizens without vehicles or support groups are stuck.

Many of the organizations, both public and private, who’ve long prided themselves on helping anyone who calls, are now directing people to the end of a waiting list.

Angela Moore lives in an Escondido apartment complex reserved for residents aged 55 and up, and has been trying to find an organization to deliver food to her doorstep for weeks.

She says she has called government offices in the city and the state of California, but hasn’t been able to reach anyone who could help.

At just 61 years old, Moore is one of the younger tenants at the Escondido Adult Village, but she has diabetes and worries about catching COVID-19 every time she walks to the store to buy food for herself and her older neighbors.

“All you see on television is boxes given away to people,” said Moore. “People driving up and getting boxes of food, where is that here? There’s nothing here.”

The city of Escondido’s food distribution program for people 60 years and older is run out of the Park Avenue Community Center. Joana Axelrod, Escondido’s Director of Communications and Community Services said unfortunately the program has a waitlist.

“A wait list? Really?” said Moore, “Coronavirus is running around here, people are running food, some of these people can’t make it to the store, we don’t have cars.”

Other regional programs, including the nonprofit Serving Seniors, have also had to turn people away for the time being.

Serving Seniors used to provide roughly 2,600 daily in-person meals and 800 home delivery meals. The organization’s CEO Paul Downey said they’ve seen demand go through the roof. In a matter of weeks they’ve mobilized crews to start delivering 6,000 daily meals, but the non profit’s bandwidth has been stretched to max capacity.

The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank is also seeing a huge spike in demand. CEO Jim Floros estimates the nonprofit typically feeds about 350,000 per month, but is currently on track to feed 600,000 people for the month of April.

Escondido partners with the food bank and does a senior food program distribution on the 4th Monday of each month at the Park Avenue Community Center. The next distribution is Monday, April 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Floros said there is plenty of food available, but the challenge has been getting it into the hands of seniors who may not have access to a car or people in their support system who can drive to distribution sites for the pickup.

San Diego’s largest home delivery agency, Meals On Wheels, doesn’t have a wait list currently, but new requests could take days or weeks to process before the onboarding process is complete according to a spokesperson.

Complicating matters, older individuals tend to be less resourceful with the internet, making it harder for them to connect with organizations, especially if the information isn’t readily available.

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