In a continuing effort to help relieve hunger among seniors, the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) approved a grant of $52,250 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to buy shelf-stable products for senior food packs which are being distributed locally.

Pleased with the success of the Second Harvest Food Bank’s Hi-Five Kids Pack program, which is financially supported by WPHF and provides shelf-stable foods to needy children in elementary schools, WPHF staff asked the Food Bank to explore similar ways to get much-needed extra foods to local seniors. The result is a program unique to the area.

Florida AARP collaborated on the project by providing an estimated 50 volunteers to help assemble the senior food packs at the Second Harvest Food  Bank. The participants dedicated their annual Day of Service on September 9 to the project.

The grant provided for 5,542 10-pound food packs which will include items that represent each of the major food groups, including dairy. (A focus group made up of older adults guided the selection of the contents.)

Depending on portion size, it is estimated the food will feed one older adult for approximately four days or two seniors for two days.

Community distribution points  include faith communities, food pantries, congregate meal sites, low income senior housing communities, and a select number of Walgreens’ pharmacies serving residents of Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.

Deliveries to homebound individuals are being made by Meals on Wheels volunteers. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel will make food packs available to older adults in need, as they become known through call responses.

In addition to food, each pack will contain a list of contact information for valuable community resources and services. “It is heartening to see so many organizations interested in addressing the issue of senior hunger,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director — Older Adults. “It is a growing problem.”

According to new research commissioned by the AARP Foundation, nearly 9 million Americans 50 and older face the risk of hunger. The research report found more than nine percent of older Americans were at risk of hunger in 2009—a 79 percent increase since 2001.