It's time to end senior hunger

Too many local seniors who survived the Great Depression aren’t getting enough to eat in the wake of the Great Recession. Nearly half of seniors living in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are in financial distress and at risk for hunger, according to the Elder Index issued by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

“Older adults have been hurt by the economy, and in many cases, so have the people they rely on for help,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. “These seniors are living on a fixed income in an area where the cost of living is extremely high. Many in their generation are simply too proud to ask for help and don’t want to burden their children or others in their support network who may also be struggling due to the recent recession. We want to make sure local seniors get the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.”

Second Harvest Food Bank serves more than 20,000 seniors in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties each month through its Brown Bag program and other food-assistance programs. Brown Bag provides weekly nutritious groceries to adults over age 60 and those over age 55 with a disability. It is one of the Food Bank’s oldest programs, started in 1975.

Through the Brown Bag program, Second Harvest provides weekly bags of groceries to seniors at 75 sites throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including community centers, churches, senior centers, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, groceries are delivered to nearly 700 homebound seniors each week. Last fiscal year, Second Harvest’s Brown Bag program provided the equivalent of more than 6.2 million meals.

“If it weren’t for Second Harvest, we wouldn’t have food on the table. We’re so grateful to have something to eat every day,” said Olegaria Maldonado, who has been a Brown Bag participant in San Jose for more than five years. “The rice, eggs, milk, bread, and fresh fruits and vegetables have really made a difference. We actually share food with our neighbors, too, since they’re in the same rough spot we’re in. We do what we can; that’s how we were raised.”

“We really owe it to our seniors to make sure they get enough to eat,” Jackson said. “Without Second Harvest’s Brown Bag program, many of these seniors would be at increased risk for malnutrition.”

Older adults who are struggling to put food on the table should call Second Harvest Food Bank’s Food Connection hotline at 800-984-3663 to learn about Brown Bag and other food-assistance programs, including CalFresh (food stamps). You can join Second Harvest’s effort to help those who may be too proud to ask, by donating at