Seniors’ food insecurity, usage concerns raised by New Brunswick food banks

Click to play video: 'Holidays especially difficult for vulnerable seniors in New Brunswick'
Holidays especially difficult for vulnerable seniors in New Brunswick
WATCH: Accessing food can be a challenge for those in vulnerable populations, such as seniors. But as Callum Smith explains, it's an even bigger issue when the need for help isn't reported – Dec 3, 2018

For those in vulnerable populations, things like accessing food can be a big challenge.

“It’s either they buy their medication or buy their food,” said Donald Ayer, who is the manager of Second Mile Food Bank. “They can’t do both.”

Approximately 40 per cent of the 120 clients who use that food bank are seniors, drawing concerns from Ayer, who says there were only a handful visiting last year.

READ MORE: New study shows increase in N.B. seniors living in poverty over last 10 years

But despite an increase in usage numbers, concerns are also being raised about those who might have the need, but aren’t using the services.

“Somebody was at a seniors home the other day, and they had little or no food in the house and we have said, ‘You know, they need to come,'” Ayer said. “And the person has said, ‘Well, I can’t do that; I can’t go to a food bank.'”

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Donald Ayer, who manages Second Mile Food Bank, says it’s concerning that there are vulnerable seniors out there, who are not using their services. Callum Smith / Global News

Meanwhile, at the Peter McKee Community Food Centre, the story is the same: more seniors using the service, but not as many as there should be.

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“A lot of seniors maybe hold a sense of pride when it comes to being able to afford to live and to survive,” said executive director Chantal Senécal. “They’ve likely worked their whole lives and are not used to being in that situation where they may be food-insecure.”

Despite that concern, there’s still a roughly 10 per cent increase in seniors using the centre.

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Senécal says they’re expecting a list of names of those in need — sent by a seniors’ complex — to provide some assistance with holiday meals.

She says that will hopefully ease any possible concerns or fear of having to reach out.

The Seniors’ Information Centre says food insecurity among seniors is part of a range of bigger issues, like affordable housing and health concerns.

“Usually food security starts to come down lower, lower and lower on the priorities,” said executive director Rhea Gallant. “Sometimes, it can be a question of choosing between medication and food.”

Rhea Gallant, who is the executive director of Seniors’ Information Centre, says they’re trying to bridge the gap between seniors and resources they may be unaware of. Callum Smith / Global News

“The centre’s mandate is to assist the older adult population as well as their caregiver, so anyone that is connected with an older adult, to help maneuver through all this red tape when it comes to finding what services are available,” Gallant said.

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Putting resources together and making them readily accessible to the public, in an effort to open doors for those who might not know they exist, is the goal.

But the message from Second Mile Food Bank is clear either way.

“We’re here with wide open arms to greet you and just to do what we can for you,” Ayer said. “We’d love to see you. We don’t want to see (food insecurity).”

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