Marian Park in Wheaton is a low-income senior living facility in which many residents face barriers to realizing food security. Food security is defined as having access to sufficient quantities of affordable and healthy food for the whole family. These barriers include health issues, low-income and little or no access to transportation. For two years, Loaves & Fishes has been serving this community through its twice monthly mobile market which began as a pilot in February 2017.
“You have no idea how helpful this food is. I had no food in my place until you showed up today,” said one of the residents. “I can make this last for more than two weeks. You all are a Godsend.”
For each visit to Marian Park, a team of nine Loaves & Fishes volunteers packs milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, meat, dried beans, non-perishable items and bakery into trucks, and unload into the community room. They arrange the dining tables into aisles and display the food in sections, with each volunteer stationed to be of assistance. The 35-40 residents move through the aisles and carefully select their items just as they would in a grocery store. Most of them are challenged by health and mobility issues. Loaves & Fishes is fortunate that regular, dedicated volunteers have established a warm rapport with the seniors and know them by name when engaging in conversation. The mobile market becomes not only an opportunity for groceries but also for social interaction.
Arthur, a tall friendly man, struggled with a walker and his oxygen as he navigated through the market.
“My favorite thing to get each time is meat,” he said. “You can stretch a lot of meals with meat if you know the right way to cook.” Arthur knows what he’s talking about; he served as a cook in the Army and in restaurant kitchens for over forty years. He makes his selection, pausing to tell the volunteers a joke.
The Loaves & Fishes mobile market at Marian Park Apartments answers a growing need for senior services. In addition to the 70-80 seniors served through the mobile market, about 120 senior households receive grocery assistance through Loaves & Fishes monthly home delivery program. Last year, an additional 1,238 seniors were also served through our facility’s grocery market in Naperville.