September 26, 2016 – According to a 2015 study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, California is a leading state in which seniors have become among “the hidden poor”. The study found that nearly 1 in 5, or about 772,000 of California’s older adults cannot afford basic needs such as food, housing, transportation and health care. However they often do not qualify for assistance. According to an Area 4 agency on Aging census, there are over 28,000 seniors living in Nevada County.

Many of the seniors served by Nevada County’s Gold Country Community Services’ Meals on Wheels program do not always have enough money to buy food, eat fewer than 2 meals per day, and eat very few fruits & vegetables. Seniors in the Truckee area that are serviced by Nevada County’s Sierra Senior Services, not only have a hard time affording food, but during the winter they have a hard time getting to locations that have food due to bad weather conditions. United Way of Nevada County views these senior food insecurity issues as a community problem and has focused efforts on helping to make a positive change for this population of the “hidden poor.”

Over the last several years, United Way of Nevada County has been supporting two partner agencies offering major programs in Nevada County that are helping to alleviate some of the struggles that some seniors face. One of the programs provides seniors with emergency food bags; the other provides frozen food to seniors on weekends and holidays when meals aren’t normally delivered. Due to the funding received from United Way of Nevada County, Sierra Senior Services, located in eastern Nevada County, will now be able to deliver emergency food bags to over 280 seniors considered living at risk during the winter of 2016/2017. The bags will contain meals that were specially designed for seniors, consisting of items low in sodium and saturated fats, with a shelf-stable life, and water. The emergency food bags will be delivered to a very large geographic area of over 862 square miles.

With the support of United Way funds, the second program, a Gold Country Community Services program serving western Nevada County has helped to improve senior’s lives by adding a frozen meal service to the Meals on Wheels program. This program provides frozen meals to home-bound seniors with the greatest need. With the frozen meal program, seniors who qualify for the Meals and Wheels program but cannot get meals on the weekends, now have food in their freezer to help them with their struggles in acquiring food during the weekends and on holidays.

This year United Way of Nevada County allocated a portion of the United Way Community Impact Fund to the struggles that seniors have to face in the area of food insecurity. While working to make an impact in the community, over the past three years, United Way of Nevada County has allocated more than $53,350.00 from the Community Impact Fund to programs that address seniors struggling with food insecurity. United Way’s current service priority is to strive to assure that individuals in Nevada County are able to meet their basic need for food, emergency shelter and access to health care.