Fear and isolation are effects of the pandemic we’ve all had to navigate, but for many of our older neighbors, fear swelled to terror while isolation threatened their health. Here in Boulder, residents at Golden West Senior Living remained connected through one of the best connectors of them all: food.
Linda Johnson volunteers to help coordinate our food bank’s Elder Share program at Golden West, a low-income community for seniors. She and 60 other residents look forward to the distribution because both transportation and high food costs can limit their access to the food they need.
When COVID-19 hit, the distribution shut down. “We just didn’t know what to do with all the regulations,” Linda recalls. “I would get phone calls saying, ‘Are we ever going to get the food back?’” Residents had access to the community’s dining room, but at $8-12 per meal, many couldn’t afford it while living on fixed incomes. “These people would literally live on a small meal a day, and that’s not healthy for 60-, 70-, and 80-year old people. They need to have nutrition just to survive and hopefully thrive. And we had lots of people who were not thriving.”
While nutrition problems mounted, so did the impact of isolation: “People would just stay in their room. Period. And we couldn’t let that happen.” Linda, along with a handful of other residents, approached Golden West’s administration about bringing Community Food Share back. Together, we adjusted the distribution to limit contact and accommodate social distancing — a feat made possible with Linda’s help.
“I called every single person, every single time to see if they were coming. We would assign them a 15-minute appointment so that nobody would be within six feet of the next person. The team came together to make this happen — to be perfectly honest, they were just as scared as everybody else was — but they put that aside and said, ‘You know, for two hours or three hours every week, we can do this, and it will make a difference.’”
Though none of us were immune to the pandemic’s emotional, physical, and economic side effects, seniors were some of the hardest hit. Linda’s courage and determination — combined with your support — meant dozens of seniors quickly regained access to the nutritious food they needed to thrive.