Though help is available, Mason said, many residents eligible for public assistance are missing opportunities because they aren’t taking the time or effort to learn about changes and apply for help.
In Delaware County, the Office for the Aging senior meals program expects to serve 2,000 to 3,000 more meals this year than in 2012, said Wayne Shepard, office director. In 2012, nearly 80,000 meals were served, up from 76,000 in 2011, he said.
Demand is increasing because people are living longer, food and fuel costs are increasing and the meals program is an effective way to address living on a fixed income, Shepard said.
Delaware County has about 12,000 seniors aged 60 and older, Shepard said. Seniors may have meals delivered or go to one of six sites throughout the county, he said, and a donation of $3 per meal is suggested. The meal sites also provide social opportunities for seniors who live alone, Shepard said.
Linda Vausse, food bank coordinator for Delaware Opportunities, said the program plans to serve 400 or more families a month this year, up from 350 to 400 families per month in 2012. The demand is coming from single mothers and other family units, Vausse said, and she attributed the increase in need to lack of jobs and to low wages.
Fifteen pantries throughout the county will provide a recipient with a three-to-four day supply of fresh produce, canned goods and frozen meat once a month, Vausse said. Many senior citizens live on fixed incomes, and Vausse said she has heard that they are “too proud’’ to accept assistant from the pantries, which would welcome them.
“I wish we would see more seniors than we have,’’ Vausse said. “We’re here to help everybody.’’