The Face of Hunger: To afford food, seniors stretch dollars and rely on others

Issues ·

1 Lawrence "Buster" Fossen, 82, of Beardsley, Minnesota, regularly attends the senior dining program at Bobby Jo's Place in Beardsley. Congregate dining is a program run by Prairie Five Community Action Council that provides a nutritious meal for seniors for the suggested donation of $3.50. For Fossen, who lives alone and suffered a stroke a year ago, the program helps a great deal. His wife passed away five years ago, and he says he would not be able to prepare meals like this on his own. 
2 Mary Sykora, owner of Bobby Jo's Place in Beardsley, Minnesota, prepares and serves a meal of pork, mashed potatoes, and carrots to seniors on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. The congregate dining program, run by Prairie Five Community Action Council, provides seniors a nutritious meal and allows them to gather and socialize. The program aims to help seniors live independently by fighting both poor nutrition and social isolation. 
3 Lawrence "Buster" Fossen, 82 of Beardsley, Minnesota and Marv Hornstein, 78, of Browns Valley, Minnesota, dined at Bobby Jo's Place in Beardsley on Tuesday, July 26, 2011, as part of the Prairie Five Congregate dining program that provides nutritious meals for seniors at an affordable price. Senior dining is available at five sites in Big Stone County, including the site in Beardsley. Participants are asked to donate what they can to cover the cost of the meal, and the suggested donation is $3.50. 
4 Mary Sykora of Beardsley, Mn.,, owns and runs Bobby Jo's Place, a restaurant in town. Sykora's restaurant is contracted to provide food for the Prairie Five Community Action Council's programs for seniors that include meal delivery and on-site senior dining, where seniors can get a nutritious meal. Beardsley is a community of just over 200 residents, many of whom are seniors living on fixed incomes and benefit from the Prairie Five programs. 
5 Cindy Smart, 60, of Beardsley, Minnesota, delivered meals to seniors as part of the home-delivered meals program run by Prairie Five Community Action Council on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Smart has volunteered as a meal deliverer for 15 years. She says seniors need both the nutrition and the personal contact to remain healthy in their homes. Sometimes Smart is the only person a senior sees all day long. 
6 Marie Gagnon, 93, of Ortonville, Minnesota lives on her own and uses the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS) to help stretch her budget each month. The federally-funded program provides seniors at or near the poverty level with a box of non-perishable foods once a month. Gagnon makes the food stretch as long as possible, doing things such as making jelly out of the grape juice provided. Gagnon also grows her own vegetables in her backyard. 
7 Marie Gagnon, 93, proudly showed off her garden of tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes in Ortonville, Minn., on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Gagnon lives on her own and grows her own produce to save money. Having grown up during the Great Depression, Gagnon learned many ways to save and store food, some of which she puts to use today. Some of the food she keeps is frozen or canned. She still cans tomatoes, makes beet jelly, and makes relish if she has cucumbers. 
8 Marie Gagnon, 93, lives on her own in Ortonville, Minnesota, and has found resourceful ways to live on a tight, fixed income. Gagnon To make the best use of the food box she receives each month, using the grape juice to make jelly and the tomato juice to make hotdish. Gagnon no longer drives, has a son living nearby who takes her to the grocery store. 
9 Richard, 88, and Delores Mauch, 84, still live on their farm in Chokio, Minnesota, and live a very thrifty lifestyle to get by on a limited, fixed income during their senior years. In addition to using what they learned during the Great Depression, they accept assistance from the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS), which gives them one box of non-perishable foods a month. Delores works to store and save food through canning and freezing meat and fruit, making her own bread and jam, and finding new ways of combining foods for a meal. Until last year, the couple had a large garden. Now friends and neighbors bring by extra produce from their gardens. 
10 Richard Mauch, 88, and his wife Delores, 84, walk to the machine shed on their farm in Chokio, Mn., Wednesday, July 27, 2011. The couple values being able to age in their own home, and have had to be creative in their thrifty lifestyle to save money. 
11 Richard Mauch, a World War II veteran and former farmer, surveys the damage to his machine shed from a storm the night before. Both the east and north walls were blown out. Living on a fixed income, he and his wife already live a very thrifty lifestyle and accept assistance through a federally funded food box program. They hope their insurance will cover the cost of the damage. 
12 Earl Komis, 94, of Ortonville, Mn., lives on his own in an apartment complex. He receives $651 a month from social security, but it falls $200 short of what he needs monthly. To make up the difference, Komis finds jobs in the community. Until recently he worked as a museum tour guide. Komis receives food once a month from the NAPS program, and also attends the senior dining service in town. He vividly recounted a story during the Great Depression when he was 15 years old, had not eaten for a day-and-a-half, and waited by the roadside for help. Despite his limited income, nothing these days can compare to how he struggled back then, Komis says.