Older adults get their pick of produce, without leaving home

Older adults get their pick of produce, without leaving home

MIDTOWN – At the Heritage House senior apartments on Sunday, residents got to grocery shop at their own front door. The price? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Several groups that regularly help neighbors out with food donations got together to coordinate this event, at 2800 Olive St., specifically because the apartments house people who are among the most vulnerable during the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. All of the residents are older adults; most are African-American. Both of those populations are being disproportionately hit by the virus. And many older people find it more difficult to get out to buy food even in normal times.

Volunteers (foreground, from left) Elizabeth Vega, Basim, Casey Stinemetz and Miss Vanessa run a food-sharing event at Heritage House, 2800 Olive St. in Midtown, on April 26 as an apartment resident watches.
Casey Stinemetz, a yoga instructor and life coach, took the lead in coordinating this food sharing event. And she’s one of many who are doing something about the problem. Fellow organizers Elizabeth Vega, Basim (she uses only that name) and Miss Vanessa – all volunteers from various groups – kept the sharing running smoothly, with help from yet more volunteers.

Stinemetz has been involved in food sharing events for four years, long before the coronavirus. But as the pandemic has taken hold, the need to keep people fed and safe has gotten even greater.

On Sunday, Stinemetz sat cross-legged outside a side door of Heritage House, bagging already-shelled hard-boiled eggs, three or four to a bag, and handing them out to residents. Everyone, residents and visitors alike, was wearing face masks, and all of the volunteers wore gloves, too.

With gloved hands she reached into a large bag of dozens of eggs bobbing in water.

“They’re juicy!” she exclaimed.

A customer waited patiently, leaning on her walker.

“Do you want some eggs?” Stinemetz asked politely, offering a smaller bag to the woman.

“No,” the woman answered bluntly, and onlookers laughed. She had her eye on a bag of chopped vegetables that was next on Stinemetz’ list of bagging chores.

Stinemetz explained that the bright red and orange vegetables were a mixture for making salsa or …

“I’ll take some of that,” the woman interrupted. No one needed to tell her what to do with them; she’d decide that on her own.

Stinemetz hurriedly finished her final bag of eggs and turned to filling her customer’s order.

On the long tables on this sunny but cool day, shoppers chose what they wanted, at their own pace. They could find tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, blackberries, broccoli, kale, celery and many other healthy foods, plus milk and bread.

Oh, and the hard-boiled eggs and salsa fixings.

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