Patricia Roe looks over the produce, frozen meats and dairy projects on folding tables in the community center at North Shore Towers apartments in Binghamton at a recent Senior Mobile Food Pantry.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she says, putting fresh apples and pears in her big re-usable shopping bags. “I only take what I need to get me through the month. Usually by this time, the cupboards are bare.”
Sue Murray, registered nurse and Community Home & Healthcare Manager, says that’s the case for many of the residents. The Visiting Nurse Services of Ithaca & Tompkins County (VNS) has had nurses imbedded at North Shore for three years to help with a variety of health needs.
When nurses found that many clients were without access to proper nutrition, VNS reached out to the Food Bank to provide a monthly Senior Mobile Food Pantry for 60 residents, as well as Welcome Boxes for residents who need food after returning from hospital or nursing care.
“It’s been a blessing for people here,” Sue says. “The nutrition the Food Bank brings is exactly balanced.”
“A lot of people I’ve talked to have said their food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits) have gone down as of January. The mobile pantry really helps,” says Barb Nezelek, supervisor of the senior center.
Funded by the Care Compass Network, the VNS project is working to improve health outcomes among Medicaid participants at North Shore. Goals include decreasing emergency room use and hospitalization, medication compliance and use of a personal health record.
The Mobile Food Pantry has also reduced social isolation for many senior and disabled clients. Residents volunteer to check-in and distribute food to their neighbors. It also provides a common meeting time for education program and activities.
“We’re not a nursing home,” says Benay Rodriguez, Senior Housing Unit Manager for the Binghamton Housing Authority. “But a lot of people here don’t have family. This is the community they have.”