California Teams Up with FEMA to Feed the Elderly

Everyone’s struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, but no one perhaps feels the burden more than our immunocompromised and elderly populations. Many dedicated good Samaritans have already worked hard to help those that need it most: for example, offering to go to the grocery store for their older neighbors (and in some cases, even paying for their supplies themselves), local stores offering dedicated hours for the elderly to come and avoid busy foot traffic and even simple good deeds such as chatting with seniors through their front doors so that they don’t feel too lonely and isolated.

However California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, recently expanded care for the elderly across the state. Per his announcement on Friday, April 10th, California will provide three meals each day for their isolated seniors. This new approach to community care was approved by, and will be eligible for a certain amount of reimbursement from, the Federal Emergency Management Agency—better known by the acronym FEMA.

Why take action now?

Government officials and community members alike have wondered since the outset how to promote the safety of our most vulnerable citizens. Then, a nursing home in Hayward reported seven deaths and at least sixty-five other staff members and patients who tested positive for COVID-19. That tragedy demonstrated just how quickly and awfully the virus can overwhelm vulnerable populations, especially when they live in close quarters like that out of necessity.

The governor also recognized that at least 1M seniors were still living at home, and although less likely to catch the disease in isolation, they were also cut off from essential health and wellness services which make senior centers such a widespread necessity in the first place. Without access to food, water and healthcare, they were just as vulnerable if not more.

The final inspiration for this decision was the charitable actions of Steph and Ayesha Curry. Their foundation Eat. Learn. Play. was founded to give children access to fitness and education programs that positively shape their futures. Since this pandemic, the foundation began partnering with the Oakland Unified School District and Alameda County Community Food Bank to provide over 300,000 meals per week to families living in Oakland. This not only shows the Currys’ personal dedication to going above and beyond for the children in their community but also demonstrated to the governor that there exists an effective, compassionate solution to the problem plaguing the elderly community in his state.

how will they work together?

Rather than focusing on any one local community, Newsom is working for more far-reaching change that will benefit the greatest number of people. Thus the state partnered with FEMA to provide three meals a day to all their at-risk seniors.

This program will support, not replace, for Meals on Wheels which delivers to people who are unable to buy or make their own food. They already provide 50K meals annually to California’s elderly, however, so many are now stuck at home unable to even brave the grocery store because they are more at risk for catching the virus than most other demographics. Meals on Wheels needs the aid of FEMA and the state government to properly accommodate all the new demand for such services.

The state will partner with restaurants in the area to provide three meals each day to seniors who need it. This makes California the first state in the country to implement this kind of novel approach for ensuring the health and safety of one of our most vulnerable populations in this critical time.

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