by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging
March and April are pretty exciting months at Eastern Area Agency on Aging because it’s when we take the Feinstein Challenge to raise money for our nutrition program including Meals on Wheels. Named for Alan Shawn Feinstein, a multimillionaire from Cranston, R.I., the Feinstein Challenge enlists nutrition programs across the country to help end hunger in the United States. For many years he has donated one million dollars to organizations nationwide that provide food to people in need. His funds are used to match a portion of the money raised by the food programs between March 1 and April 30, an event he calls the Feinstein Challenge. The amount raised dictates the amount of the match.
You may know about the various budget cuts and the struggles that EAAA is facing, not unlike all nonprofit agencies. But do you know how important the people who donate to us are and what kind of a difference they make? You probably know about Meals on Wheels and our Community Cafes but we do so much more when it comes to ensuring that elders are getting enough to eat every day.
EAAA’s nutrition program puts together boxes of food staples for seniors who call us, or are referred to us who have no food in their homes. It’s sad but unfortunately too true. There really are elders out there who are eating one meal a day and the cupboard is bare, not to mention the wallet.
EAAA answers these calls even though there is no “official” funding for it. I have been here 13 years and am continually proud that our caring out-performs our budget every day.
We also have a program called Pantry Partners where farmers and gardeners donate the fruits of their labor to low-income seniors who otherwise would be unable to afford such luxuries as fresh produce. Last year, we distributed almost eight tons of vegetables to hundreds of very grateful seniors. While the food was free, we had to pick-up, sort and deliver to clients, all of which incurred costs. When there is no budget line in place, something else takes a hit. Donations are critical to programs like this.
But it is well worth it. The seniors who received the produce said it had been a long time since they heard the snap of a fresh cucumber or green pepper or tasted the juice of a tomato right off the vine.
These are the things we do every day to ensure that seniors are not going to bed hungry, that they can actually take the pills that require food in the stomach but who have a talent for flying under everyone’s radar until they are in dire straits.
“The nutrition program struggles every day to keep up with nutritional needs of seniors,” said Rob Crone, director of nutrition. “Our main goal is to feed seniors but our lack of adequate funding is of great concern. We also are hoping to end the Meals on Wheels waiting list. We are looking forward to the Feinstein Challenge.”
And this year, we have a thank you gift. For every $28, which translates into seven meals, or more, we will send a green rubber bracelet that says, “I Support Meals on Wheels.” They will be all the rage so get yours today. All the cool kids will have them. Wear your bracelet proudly and when asked about it, let people know how you helped feed some seniors. Maybe they will be inspired by you and want to help out as well.
If you’d like to take the Feinstein Challenge, make out a check to Eastern Area Agency on Aging, write Feinstein Challenge in the memo section and mail to: EAAA, 450 Essex St., Bangor, ME 04401. You also may donate online at EAAA.org.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812 or log on EAAA.org.