On Friday, May 9th, I received the very pleasant notice that the Palo Alto Community Fund (PACF) had approved the Stevenson House application for funding to help support our weekday senior resident evening meal program.
Nutritious, well-prepared, attractive meals served family style are essential for healthy aging while also providing opportunities for our residents to socialize and an opportunity for identifying residents who need assistance. This $10,000 grant will help to cover the rising costs of our vital meal program and avoid raising the meal fee for our already financially stretched low-income residents.
Stevenson House offers programs and services that help extend the ability of our residents to live independently in good physical and mental health. Because our low rents are partially subsidized by HUD (the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) which does not allow use of those funds for services, we must turn to outside sources to help us provide vital supports for our aging low-income population. One key component of our services is the provision of nutritious week-day dinners to our residents. We have always offered this program. However, for the first time, escalating costs for staff, supplies, utilities, and food are outstripping what residents pay for meals. Each year, Stevenson House must raise over $40,000 to cover a shortfall in the resident meal program budget.
Family-style meals play a vital role at Stevenson House. We have a dedicated kitchen and serving staff who provide dinners that are healthful and tailored to the special dietary needs and ethnic preferences of our residents. Our primary goal is to continue to offer this extremely important meal program to residents without unnecessarily passing on increased costs to them. Between sequestration cuts leading to increased rents for many of our residents and inflation, we cannot in good conscience ask residents to pay all of these increased costs.
Keeping the meal program going is a critical goal because it goes beyond addressing the nutrition needs of our residents. It also addresses the need for socializing and provides a safety net. By eating at tables with three or four other residents, mealtime serves as an opportunity to build and maintain relationships. Since social isolation is often a precursor to depression, scheduled events to socialize contribute to mental and emotional health. At the same time, the meal program offers both staff and other residents an opportunity to note if someone is in need of assistance (for example, someone misses a meal or comes and describes or exhibits stress that needs attention.)
Although all apartments have kitchenettes, many residents have poor vision and other challenges that make it difficult and even risky to prepare meals for themselves. Our meal program therefore also addresses the need to minimize safety risks to our residents. In addition, when residents are temporarily ill or otherwise unable to attend dinner, we deliver trays to their rooms which provides another opportunity to assess whether additional help is needed.
On behalf of our vulnerable senior residents, I extend my deepest gratitude to the Palo Alto Community Fund (www.paloaltocommfund.org) for this generous $10,000 grant to help Stevenson House continue our indispensable evening nutrition program.
Thomas M. Pamilla, MSW
(650) 494-1944, ext. 12