• Last modified 3346 days ago (June 24, 2010)


Elderly hardest hit by food shortages

Staff writer

When people think of someone going hungry, the image that comes to mind is that of a family with young children, a single parent, or someone affected by layoffs.

Most people don’t think of the elderly, Main Street Ministries Inc. food bank coordinator Mindy Tharp said. Many of the food bank’s clients receive Social Security, but most of that money is spent on medicine, she said.

“We have people as old as 91 coming in here,” Tharp said.

Marion County Department on Aging Director Gayla Ratzlaff thinks several factors contribute to the number of elderly clients the food bank serves. In the 2000 census, 21 percent of Marion County’s population was 65 or older, and half of those people lived below the poverty line, Ratzlaff said.

She said she didn’t think that situation has improved in the past 10 years. Social Security recipients didn’t receive a cost-of-living adjustment to their checks for 2010. Meanwhile, food costs and many senior citizens’ supplemental insurance premiums increased.

Food isn’t the only assistance needed. Tharp said she was surprised at the number of clients who can’t afford items like shampoo, dish soap, and toilet paper. Those kinds of necessities are not covered by Vision card benefits. A Vision card is a debit card, used like food stamps.

Main Street Ministries also operates a clothing bank, which is open at the same time as the

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food bank, 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday. The clothing bank currently needs volunteers more than donations. Many clients donate clothes at the same time they receive clothes, Tharp said.

Food donations are most common during the fall. Trick or Treat for Main Street and the Boy Scouts’ Fill up the Bus food drive leave the food bank well stocked before the holidays she said.

Supplies run a little short during the summer, but they recently were bolstered by a donation from Strassburg Baptist Church vacation Bible School.

Summer is a time of especially high demand on food banks, because children are out of school and not receiving school lunches. Tharp estimated one-half of food bank clients are families with school-age children.

For more information about the Main Street Ministries food bank, call (620) 947-3393, e-mail, or stop at the food bank during its operating hours. Main Street Ministries is located at 415 S. Main St., Hillsboro.

Last modified June 24, 2010