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Looking out for Oregon seniors at Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a time when families come together, but some aren’t so fortunate.

Older Americans are especially at risk of being hungry over the holidays – more than 1 in 4 lives alone – according to a Feeding America study.

In Oregon, the study by the nationwide food bank organization shows 15 percent of people ages 50 and older are food insecure.

Elaine Friesen-Strang, volunteers president of AARP Oregon, says the average Social Security check is $1,250 a month, leading to hard choices for some seniors.

“When they’re living on that much money, they’re saying, ‘How can I afford, then, to purchase food?'” she relates. “The increase in housing has really exasperated this problem.

“The average one-bedroom apartment in Portland is $1,300 a month. That’s higher than the average Social Security check.”

Friesen-Strang says 30 percent of seniors rely on Social Security as their only source of income.

She also says there are ways people can help.

One option is the Meals on Wheels program, delivering food to home bound seniors with the extra bonus of a friendly check-in for people who may not interact with anyone else. Volunteers to deliver meals always are needed.

In Portland, another local way to help is the Portland Food Project, where people can buy nonperishable grocery items and leave them in a Food Project bag on their porch. On the second Saturday of the month, a volunteer will pick it up and leave a new bag.

Caroline Pope works with 211info, a resource center for people across Oregon with information about food assistance and more. She says the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a great resource for seniors, but often isn’t considered because they feel embarrassed or don’t know how to seek help.

“I can just say from the people I talk to that there’s a lot of misinformation about what people are eligible for,” she states. “And also, I think that the baby boomer generation generally has more stigma as far as receiving help and assistance.”

Pope says some seniors believe they or their children will have to pay back any SNAP benefits they use, although that is not the case. If seniors have more questions about SNAP or other food assistance options, they can call 211.

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