Andrea Marvin, Communications Manager, Blue Lake Rancheria
Over 40% of Native Elders age 55-75+ are at moderate to high nutritional risk
Every Tuesday, Art Jones volunteers his time to package cooked meals with care for Native American elders and senior citizens who live on the Blue Lake Rancheria and throughout Humboldt County. “
“One of my motives is that it feels good to help out,” Art Jones said.
Art has volunteered for the ‘Blue Lake Rancheria Elder Nutrition Program’ for a few years now, packaging hundreds of meals a week, and thousands of meals a year. Giving to the community is what keeps Art coming back to the Rancheria.
“Nobody of any age should go to bed hungry,” Jones said.
Art is one of nine volunteers who donate their time to assist the program with packaging and delivering meals. Volunteers reside in both Humboldt and Trinity Counties and range in age from 50-80+. Without volunteer assistance the program would not be successful.
The Elder Nutrition Program provides free home delivered meals to Native American elders living in Humboldt and Trinity Counties. The program is also available to non-native elders for a small fee and is coordinated with local Older Americans Act Nutrition Services, a federally funded program for seniors.
The program helps approximately 70 elders in Humboldt County from as far south as Rio Dell, north to Trinidad and east to Trinity Center, totaling 1,450 square miles of service area. The food is packed up and delivered to elders once a week, and the route can take up to two days to complete.
“It is a necessity; these folks cannot get out to feed themselves,” Alex Albright, BLR food delivery driver, said.
“Our elders need to be taken care of. They have taken care of us all their lives, so it’s time for us to take care of them.”
Tribal elders in reservation communities often experience food insecurity, unsure about where they will get their next meal. According to National Resource Center on Native American Aging, 47% of native elders 55-75+ are at moderate to high nutritional risk and up to 10.7% are in poor health.
To help ensure elders are getting proper nutrition, program director Deb Winkle makes sure each meal plan is nutritious and packed with fresh produce and ingredients. The menu rotates with a variety of traditional foods, such as venison, salmon, blueberries, vegetarian cuisine, and healthy pasta dishes and soups.
“It provides a nutritious meal for them that may be their only meal for the day,” Winkle said.
The program also helps fight the ongoing hunger crisis Humboldt County has faced over the years.
The rate of food insecurity in Humboldt County is the third highest out of the 58 California counties, coming in slightly behind Siskiyou County and tied with Trinity County, according to the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University.
Elder Mike Brundin receives the meals, and believes the program is important to help elders and seniors in need.
“There’s a lot of folks in the backwoods who maybe cannot get around as well as I do,” Mr. Brundin said.