- The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa CalFresh Healthy Living program leverages community partnerships to serve home-bound seniors through home deliveries
- All food provided is selected to meet the unique dietary needs and cooking capabilities of seniors
- High quality services and building relationships with clients are priorities.
Homebound seniors are at high risk for food insecurity, but through a novel home delivery system, seniors in Sonoma County are receiving the food – and the connection – they need.
Homebound seniors currently comprise 13% of the senior community, a stark increase from the 5% prior to the pandemic. This population faces food insecurity at significantly higher rates than the rest of Sonoma County. Food insecurity in seniors is often exacerbated by chronic illnesses and needs for specialized diets. Community organizations gathered to raise this concern, identify barriers, and brainstorm solutions. Suggestions ranged from creating larger-print flyers to advertise resources to coordinating ride programs to bring seniors to farmers’ markets.
While several ideas were shared, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa (CCDSR) worked to find a solution to meet the most basic needs of the community: the need for food delivered to their homes.
The CCDSR CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) team met with the CCDSR Senior Services (SS) team, who confirmed that a home delivery program was the most appropriate way to ensure homebound seniors had access to healthy food. The SS team worked quickly to identify and contact the highest need clients.
Meanwhile, the CFHL team knew there were several factors at play in planning this novel distribution system:
- Meet nutrition standards
- Honor unique dietary needs
- Prioritize the seniors’ abilities to prepare the food safely
Fortunately, through longstanding partnerships with Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) and Farm to Pantry (F2P), the CFHL team was confident this could be done.
Each team involved in the project leverages their own expertise:
- the CCDSR SS team identifies and communicates with the clients
- the CCDSR Rural Food Project provides the paid staff, volunteers and transportation for deliveries
- the CFHL team oversees the project and ensures food and nutrition standards are being met.
Therefore, those involved in the actual deliveries are trained in how to appropriately reinforce the nutrition messaging as they engage with clients through the process.
As a result, every month, homebound seniors in Sonoma County receive a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, and whole-grain products. They also received nutrition-related resources and recipes. Perhaps equally important, they receive human connection and the reminder that they are seen, loved, and worthy of care. For many clients, this is the only face-to-face interaction they experience the entire week. When the driver takes the time to chat with the client about rinsing their canned vegetables, for example, it is far more than a nutrition tip to help reduce the sodium content. It is a chance for the client to hear, “You matter, and regardless of your life stage or circumstances, your ability to flourish and thrive is a priority for me.”
As the program continues to grow, CCDSR hopes to continue leveraging partnerships to meet rising needs. An ongoing source of funding has been identified. The CFHL and SS teams continue to work with the Development team to recruit additional drivers, thereby expanding the program’s capacity. Through the fresh produce provided by F2P, seniors will continue to receive seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Most importantly, regardless of program size, the core goal remains the same: providing nutritious food to those who need it in a dignified and compassionate manner.
Elisa L Quinlan, MSPH
Director of Nutrition and Healthcare Access
Catholic Charities of California
1107 9th Street, Suite 707
Sacramento, CA 95814
P (916) 476-5223 | F (916) 662-7994
C (530) 746-1800