On a typical Wednesday afternoon at the Golden Inn & Village in Santa Ynez, senior residents can be found seated around tables in their usual spots alongside friends, eagerly awaiting lunch to be served. Lunch on the menu this week includes chicken fettuccine, zucchini, cantaloupe, garlic bread, vanilla pudding and coffee crumb cake.
However due to heightened measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the loss of vital funding, the cost associated with increased efforts to keep residents safe and healthy is becoming worrisome.
Rona Barrett Foundation spokeswoman Nina Borin explains that the number of meals being served has doubled since those seniors who were able to go out on occasion can no longer.
"So there are more residents relying on the food program now," she said. "Currently, the food program is only three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Somehow, we're going to have to find a way to increase that."
Borin says that the donor-supported hot food program can mean the difference between residents going hungry or an exacerbation of health conditions due to less-than optimal food choices.
Given the loss of funding and fresh produce donations and steadily ballooning costs, Borin is concerned that residents, many of which having lived on the streets who return to a familiar place of fear and insecurity, will be left to fend for themselves.
"They push what they know out of their minds, that hunger is not just about a growling stomach," said Borin. "It’s about their body’s ability to ward off illness, to heal a wound, to think more clearly and maintain emotional balance; to stand up without getting light-headed and have the ability to exercise, and to survive minor surgery and fend off depression and fear."
The Solvang Senior Center will be closed to the public until further notice but will continue to take phone calls during regular business hours.
Additionally, meals are now being packaged in containers for seniors to take back to their rooms which adds extra cost, she said. And beyond food program expenses, residents have become more dependent on the Foundation for personal supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels, toilet paper, personal hygiene supplies, water and denture cream.
"The facility itself requires much more in supplies for more frequent cleaning and disinfecting, hand washing, even printing notices to keep the residents aware," Borin said, referring to the stay at home order issued by Gov. Newsom for people 65 and older. "As the bills arrive, our financial burden is double that of pre-COVID. And this is just the beginning."
To learn more about the program or help, visit goldeninn.org/give , or call 805-688-8887.
Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News.
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