Since the summer, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, whose district encompasses Main Campus, has been distributing boxes of food donated from Share Food Program, a citywide food assistance nonprofit, to local seniors about every two weeks.
Kenyatta distributes the boxes both at his district office on Broad Street near Jefferson and senior residential facilities Gladys B. Jacobs Manor at Fairmount Avenue near 11th Street and Guild House East on Spring Garden Street near 7th.
“Poverty is the moral and economic issue of our time,” he added. “One of the ways it is most insidious is that it affects our seniors. A lot of the seniors in my district are put in some situations at the end of the month where they were being faced with food insecurity.”
Food insecurity affected more than 5.5 million, or 7.7 percent of the senior population in the United States in 2017, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks. In Philadelphia, the number of seniors that suffer from food insecurity increased by approximately 30 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to a report by Hunger Free America, a national food assistance advocacy nonprofit.
Several organizations in Philadelphia provide free or reduced-price meals to low-income seniors, including some that provide home delivery services, according to Philly Food Finder, a project of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council.
“These seniors had to make tough decisions between food that is needed or medicine,” Kenyatta said. “Many are retired and don’t have the desire or capacity to rejoin the workforce. So food was a big concern.”
Kenyatta asked Share Food to partner with his office to provide pre-packaged boxes with non-perishable foods and some perishable foods like fruit and potatoes to the seniors.
During the summer, Kenyatta’s office operated the program once every week, but now distributes twice a month, Kenyatta said.
“It’s first come, first serve until all of the boxes are gone,” he said. “We start giving out the boxes at noon, and the seniors are out the door quickly.”
Approximately 30 seniors attended Nov. 15’s weekly distribution at Kenyatta’s district office.
“The packages help make good and nutritious meals, and every little bit helps when you are on a fixed income,” said Jean Threadgill, who lives on 13th Street near Jefferson and attended the weekly distribution.
“The program helps a lot and is a big advantage,” said Patsy Stanley who lives on Master Street near 12th
She said the packages could be handed out more often though.
“The food is fresh,” said Paulette Coles, who lives on 9th Street near Lehigh Avenue. “I have not had any problems with my packages. The program helps a lot, but it could be more frequent.”
“This program is just simply marvelous,” said Darlene Hoyle, who lives on Girard Avenue near 12th Street. “It helps families in need, and helps make great quality meals.”