Food bank policy change negatively impacts seniors

Letter to the Editor

Editor,

I am the property manager at Stone Brook Seniors Community, here in San Marcos.  We are an Affordable Housing community, for low-to-moderate income seniors. For the past 3 years, our residents have been able to sign up, in our office, to receive the Thanksgiving Turkey Boxes, provided through the Hays County Food Bank. Additionally, we have been able to arrange delivery of the boxes via Little Guys Movers, or some other entity. Our staff would then distribute the boxes, accordingly,  to those who had registered.

 Late in September of this year, we were informed that the process of registering for, and obtaining, the boxes had changed. According to Ashley and Denise, with the Food Bank, this new process was supposed to make sure delivery of the boxes was “fair” for everyone. However, this is not the case, at all. This year’s process actually discriminated against the elderly who do not possess the computer skills to register online, those who no longer drive, or are disabled. We were told that they may call and register.  However, the 2 hours, per week,  which are allotted to call in, appeared to be insufficient. Many residents have told me they could not get though, or if they did, the person answering the food bank phone did not seem to know why they were calling. And, even if they were able to register by phone, many had no means of picking their boxes up.

Initially, when we asked if we could pick the boxes up for our residents, we were told no, that they HAD to pick them up in person.

 I reached out to Katie Bell-Moore, the Board President of the Hays County Food Bank, on September 18th. She responded on September 19th. She informed me she would discuss the situation with their CEO & Executive Committee. I never heard back from her after that.

On October 4th, Reuben Garza, of Sunrise Village, brought it to my attention that Hays County makes large contributions to the Hays County Food Bank, (as do many other local entities), and that Hays County Commissioners participate in the decision-making process for these monetary contributions. Because of the county’s participation, I thought it might be pertinent to contact them and inform them of this situation. I emailed Commissioners Mark Jones and Debbie Ingalsbe on October 4th. The only response I received was from Mark Jones, on October 16th. He stated that he would get with Katie Bell-Moore and see what they had come up with.

I never again heard from either one of them.

With the change in protocol, for this year’s sign-up and the distribution process, many of my residents were not be able to take advantage of the Turkey Boxes. While our resident volunteers assisted many with the online registration, others still did not have the means to pick up the boxes, literally or physically.

We requested, in writing, for a Reasonable Accommodation to the policy, for this year’s Turkey Box distribution so that ALL of my seniors, (and I am sure, other senior communities in San Marcos/Hays County),  would be able take advantage of this program which was offered to ALL eligible residents of Hays County.  We asked permission to arrange pick-up and delivery of the boxes, by volunteers, (such as Little Guys Movers). I was never notified of any acceptance of our request. However, when my Activity Director called this past Tuesday morning, she was told she could pick up her Turkey Box, and 2 additional boxes, as long as she had the other resident’s email confirmation forms. While this helped out a little, it meant they had to make multiple trips to the school and wait in line, repeatedly, (and remember, the volunteers are Seniors too). Additionally, when they went for their last trip, a new group was handing out the boxes and informed them they needed written permission from each recipient, as well.

November 14th, was the first distribution date for the Turkey Boxes. My residents, who were able to get to Hernandez elementary, arrived right at 5 p.m. to find the parking lot full and a long line already waiting. One disabled resident was unable to stand and wait in the long line and had to leave. Others did remain in line and had to stand there for over an hour to get their box.

I have brought this to the attention of our Asset Manager, with A.I.G. She has graciously offered to provide turkeys to my residents in need, if they were unable to get their Turkey Box due to this new distribution process. While this is a blessing, it does not excuse Hays County Food Bank.

It is quite sad that the Hays County Food Bank doesn’t realize, or won’t admit, the negative impact that this year’s distribution method has had on the Seniors and disabled residents of Hays County. Again, according to Ashley and Denise, with the Food Bank, this year’s process was supposed to make the distribution method “fair” for all eligible residents. Tell me, how is it “fair” that many of my eligible residents could not get their box simply because they were not physically ABLE to stand, waiting, in a very long line?

Sincerely,

Megan Walker

Property Manager Stone Brook Seniors Community

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666