Lonnie Potts shopped among crates full of bananas and honey dew melons and a table piled high with loaves of bread.
His shopping experience was similar to a visit to the local grocery store, except the food was free and brought right to his doorstep.
Potts was among other senior adults who selected fresh fruit and other items during the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Fresh Food Mobile Market stop at the Danforth Senior Center, 5301 N Meridian, where he lives.
“It’s a total blessing to us who are on a fixed income,” said Potts, 69.
Through the Fresh Food Mobile Market program, food is delivered each month to senior adults living in 18 Oklahoma Housing Authority sites in Oklahoma, Pottawatomie, Seminole and Comanche counties, said Cathy Nestlen, the food bank’s public relations and marketing manager. Ten of the sites are in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Nestlen said in the food bank’s fiscal year that ended on June 30, about 1,000 senior adults were served on average each month. Based on 340,188 pounds of food distributed during the fiscal year, this equated to 283,490 meals, she said.
Kim Lee, housing manager at the Danforth center, echoed Potts’ comments about the program.
She said most of the senior adults looked forward to the mobile market’s visit to the center. At the recent market stop, Lee spent some time selecting items for senior adults who couldn’t get out to choose food for themselves.
Nestlen said the goal of the mobile market program for seniors is to make free nutritious food more accessible to older adults by distributing it to them where they live. These are people on a fixed income who may not have a way to get to a local food pantry when their funds run low for groceries.
“We come to the senior centers because transportation is an issue for some and we go to where the crowd is,” Nestlen said.
‘It’s a blessing’
Volunteers like Eric Pham, Kim Rich and Mari Rupert helped set up the mobile market outside the Danforth center one sunny morning in September.
The group placed numerous bags on table for each senior adult. The bags were filled with shelf staples like macaroni and cheese, individual cereal boxes, pasta sauce, cranberry juice concentrate, tuna and green beans.
Senior adults like Potts and Olivia Walter, 75, lined up on the center’s outdoor patio to retrieve the bags of food and select from food items like 10-pound sacks of potatoes, peaches and other items. Most of them put the food in plastic crates, while a few had sacks and shopping carts.
Walter said she and most of the residents of the senior center looked forward to the mobile market visit each month. She said they meet to fellowship together after selecting their food. The senior center offered a game of bingo to those who gathered, and nurses conducted blood pressure checks.
“I think it has more than one reward to it because I think a lot of people look forward to it,” Walter said of the socialization.
“It’s feeding the spirit, as well as the flesh,” she said. “It let everyone know that they are not alone. It’s a blessing.”
Volunteer Rich, 58, of Oklahoma City, said the recent visit to the Danforth center was her fifth time participating in the mobile market.
“I worked at a grocery store before this so it’s neat to be on the other side, giving food away and not charging for it,” she said.
Rupert, who helped seniors select bananas and peaches, agreed.
“Food is a basic need, and I like working with the people,” she said. “I really care about these people.”