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The city of El Paso has temporarily closed its senior centers to protect the population most at risk from the coronavirus. But the move has cut off about 900 senior citizens from their regular weekday lunches.
The community’s food bank, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, is moving to quickly fill the nutrition void by assembling food boxes to be delivered to the affected seniors.
“So how it’s going to happen is there are 12 senior centers where those seniors typically would have gone to have their meals. And instead we’re going to have the boxes assembled, they’re going to drive up, they’re going to pop their trunk, we’re going to put a box in the trunk. And they’re going to drive off, so that they’ll have food items that they can basically sustain themselves during these times where it’s not possible for them to get the meals at the senior centers,” said Susan Goodell, CEO of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.
The boxes contain cans and boxes of food. Each affected senior will receive a weekly box of food while the senior centers are closed, Goodell said.
The first 500 food boxes were assembled Saturday morning at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger warehouse in the Lower Valley by volunteers from the Wounded Warrior Project. Diana Martinez volunteered with her children, Denali Negron, 14, and Yadiel Negron, 12.
“It’s important to make sure everybody has access to food,” Martinez said. She and her children have been volunteering at the food bank for about four months.
The food bank also is working with El Paso County to provide food to several hundred senior citizens who are homebound and in need of food assistance.
The county typically provides four to six meals a week to these seniors. But because going outside the house for food could expose seniors to the coronavirus, the county and food bank are working to provide them with enough food for three meals a day, seven days a week, Goodell said.
“So we’re working with the county where we will provide food items for these seniors who are getting the prepared meals delivered to their door. We’re looking for things like cans of cling peaches or rice bowls, things that they don’t have to cook, because many of these seniors are not in a position to cook ingredients,” she said. “They need something that can be readily eaten. So we’re looking to supplement the hot meals the county provides.”
Goodell said El Pasoans Fighting Hunger is developing sites across the county where food boxes can be assembled and distributed.
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger needs donations and volunteer help during the coronavirus emergency.
The food bank asks that people donate money rather than food, because El Pasoans Fighting Hunger can create seven meals with each $1 donation.
Monetary donations can be made at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger website, by calling (915) 298-0353, or by mailing a check to El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, 9541 Plaza Circle, El Paso, TX 79927.
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger also needs volunteers to prepare food boxes for senior citizens. They are seeking healthy volunteers under age 60 to avoid exposing vulnerable people to illness. Volunteer applications can be made at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger website.