Dec. 12, 2019 12:44 pm

Hunger is a real crisis for the senior population in Philadelphia

Guest columnist Robert Nowell writes about the nonprofit that helps him eat healthier.

Robert Nowell shopping for groceries.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest column written by lifelong Philadelphia resident, Robert Nowell. Lynn Johnson-Porter, vice president of philanthropy at Presby’s Inspired Life, contributed the statistics in the column.
As the holidays quickly approach and families are gathering together to eat delicious meals with all of the fixings, I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on a real crisis in the city I have called home for more than 70 years — food insecurity among seniors.

Throughout my life, I have always done what it takes to try and make ends meet but when you live on a fixed income, like many older adults across Philadelphia do, food insecurity is a very real thing.

In fact, according to the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), between 2015 – 2018, hunger among people aged 60 and over in the city rose from 11% to 12.25%, an increase from 32,000 to 38,000 people.

Studies show that older people who can’t afford food, especially healthy food, are much more likely to be sick, obese and to have fallen in the last year.

I was one of those statistics.

One of my passions is to cook, but for most of my life I struggled to buy healthy foods to make decent meals for myself. However, in 2016 that all changed for me, thanks to the Cupboards of Care program provided by my affordable housing community at Presby’s Inspired Life’s 58th Street campus.

Presby’s Inspired Life is a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that provides continuing care and affordable housing to more than 3,000 people 62 and older. The Cupboards of Care program is an initiative that provides older adults with quarterly gift cards to use at area grocery stores.

I have always been mindful of my budget and disciplined to stick to my list of food necessities, but with the help of these monthly gift cards I am now able to purchase more healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

In addition to the gift cards, the Cupboards of Care program includes educational cooking sessions with chefs who teach me and others how to use different foods which has allowed me to be more adventurous in my eating habits. For example, I am now buying and eating squash and asparagus and I even make faux mashed potatoes with turnips!

Ever since I started in the Cupboards of Care program, I have lost more than 40 pounds and have lowered my blood pressure significantly. I enjoy cooking more than ever and now love to make healthy meals for my neighbors — some have come to rely on my skills in the kitchen!

I’ve also discovered that food lasts much longer when you prepare meals at home instead of going out to just pick up something like fast food. For me, it’s all about eating right and staying away from unhealthy foods now.

From our Partners

The weight loss has been an amazing blessing for me, but the most important benefit of being able to live a healthier lifestyle is spending time with my 29 grandchildren. As the holidays quickly approach, I am counting my blessings and am grateful for the opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle, so I can be around for my family and continue to be a valuable contributor in my community.


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