Summer in Central Texas is a time of change for local families. Flip flops are in, school is out and temperatures are on the rise. However, summer can also mean more families are struggling with hunger.
With students no longer in school, children do not have access to free or reduced price lunch. Higher temperatures will raise electricity bills for seniors and families. All these changes mean that our Central Texas neighbors need help from the Food Bank, now more than ever.
Neighbors like Vara rely on Capital Area Food Bank of Texas partners to make ends meet. A native Texan, Vara is long-time client of El Buen Samaritano, one of the Food Bank’s 300 Partner Agencies. In her 80 years, Vara has lived a rich and fascinating life. As a young woman, she became a model at a local department store in Houston to support her two daughters.
“People say ‘oh you were a model!’ But all I was thinking was ‘I got to feed my kids and myself,” Vara said with a smile. “I was just a working mother.”
For over 40 years, she was featured as a model and actress in catalogues and commercials for companies around the world. But Vara’s career was cut short when her health declined. For years, an allergy to cosmetics went undiagnosed and then, while working on the set of a film, she suffered a heart attack. Vara’s health problems not only limited her ability to work but also created the financial hardship she experiences today.
Unfortunately, there are many older adults in our community that face similar challenges as Vara. One out of every seven seniors in Texas experiences hunger. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to the physical and emotional stress of hunger.
Inadequate access to nutritious food affects their ability to maintain independent, healthy lifestyles. Payments for rent, utilities and medication often overshadow the need for a nutritious diet for many seniors living on a fixed or limited income. They are often forced to choose between paying for food or prescription drugs: a choice no one should have to make.
According to research by Feeding America, between 2001 and 2011, the number of food insecure seniors more than doubled. This fact is even more troubling when data from the 2010 U.S. Census shows that during the past decade, Austin’s small elderly population grew by 27 percent, twice the national rate. Today, more than one-third of the older adults served by the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas go extended periods without food.
“There are some months when I’m not sure I will make it,” Vara said, referring to her limited budget. “Especially if I have a lot of medications.” Vara relies on the support of El Buen Samaritano’s food pantry to help her get groceries and stretch her budget.
“It’s scary,” Vara said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to buy food at the end of the month.”
There is a strong connection between poor health and food insecurity for the senior population, as indicated by a Feeding America study. Food insecurity is associated with increased risk of developing negative health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Without access to healthy food, older adults facing food insecurity are at risk for health complications.
The partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas is critical to making healthy food accessible to our neighbors in need. By working with corporate donors, community leaders and local government, the Food Bank provides a supply of fresh produce, healthy protein and other staples essential to a well-balanced diet.
Last year, the Food Bank distributed more than 8 million pounds of produce through our network of partners across the 21 county region. The healthy groceries provided through the Food Bank’s network means older adults like Vara can have access to nutritious food that they need to stay well.
“I can get fresh produce and healthy food I can’t normally get,” Vara said. “Without the food pantry, I would be struggling to make it”
But the summer is a critical time for everyone struggling with hunger in Central Texas, not just seniors. During the summertime, your neighbors are facing months of high electricity bills and families with children must stretch their budgets to provide more meals.
The Food Bank is rising to the challenge with a bold goal to raise one million meals to meet the community’s need. When you support the Capital Area Food Bank, you make it possible for everyone who needs help to come to the table. Vara and Central Texans like her need help from the Food Bank to stay nourished and healthy. But we need your help.
While the summer is the season when our clients need the most help, it is also the time when the Food Bank struggles to raise food and fund donations to meet this demand. We need your support now, more than ever, to keep our neighbors healthy and nourished.
Reflecting on her experience with El Buen Samaritano, Vara is thankful for all the support she has received from the Food Bank partner.
“I’m so grateful,” Vara said. “You don’t know how much you’re helping.”
Only with your help can we keep our promise that anyone struggling with hunger will be able to come to the table and get the help they need.
Let's bring everyone to the table by raising 1 million meals for families seniors and kids this summer. Visit austinfoodbank.org to donate.