LORAIN, Ohio — With food access growing scarcer for seniors between the ages of 65 and 84 in Lorain County, a local retiree decided to use his free time and help a local program deliver meals directly to those in need.
Out of the Neighborhood Alliance Kitchen, 600 meals are packed, about 3,000 a week, into the trucks of retirees like Tim Ernest who is using his time to help his community in need.
At 67 years old and a former BFI Recycling employee, Ernest wanted to stay active in his retirement.
“I was just laying around doing nothing,” he said. “It was a calling for me. I felt it. It was a need and you know I stepped up to the plate.”
His clients are among those most in need, and each one of them, like Joy Caggs, are considered friends.
“It’s been a true blessing because we’re on a fixed income, so we can’t afford groceries half of the time,” said Caggs, who is a Neighborhood Alliance client.
Caggs finds herself in a situation that is familiar to many. After coronavirus swept the nation, Neighborhood Alliance was forced to expand services, distributing more than 100,000 meals last year alone.
“What the pandemic did was show that the need was always there,” said Amy Anderson, director of senior enrichment services.
The need seems to be shifting. According to The Second Harvest Food Bank, the Child Tax Credit continues to help lower food insecurity among students and their families. Supply shortages and rising food costs are stripping more meals away from seniors in need.
“We keep thinking that's going to clear up, but we're not seeing that. Obviously, economic development and employment is the surest way to make sure that people don't need our help,” said Julie Chase-Morefield, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of NEO.
For Ernest, his work and time delivering to seniors don’t come without its struggles.
“I’ve easily had 15 people who passed away on my route this year,” he said.
But giving back and stepping up to the plate makes it a little easier to cope.
“It’s very good and nice to see that I’m being able to help these people,” he said.
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