Food is a basic need in life, yet thousands of older adults in Michigan do not have enough money to feed themselves. To aid adults age 60 and older, Elder Law of Michigan, Inc. created Michigan’s Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly (MiCAFE) program in 2001. MiCAFE helps seniors apply for food assistance from the government.
Elder Law is a non-profit that aims to promote and protect the rights and well-being of older adults. Although Elder Law has its headquarters in Lansing, the MiCAFE program was just brought to Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties this past year. In 2010, MiCAFE helped 191 people in the tri-county area apply for food assistance and other programs.
“We’ve been focusing on a lot of other places in the state, but we live in Lansing and it’s been really nice to be able to focus in on our home county,” said MiCAFE Director Sarah Himes. “It’s been nice to bring it back home.”
Elder Law Executive Director Kate White said that a lot of people do not realize that older adults are among the poor. A recent study Elder Law did with Wayne State University found that more than 267,000 older adults in Michigan do not have enough money to cover their basic needs.
“That’s a really significant problem in our communities, but it often is very silent and not much noticed because older adults tend not to complain,” White said. “They tend to (only) share their hardship with their friends and family, and sometimes even they don’t know. They come from a different time, and if they don’t have enough food to eat two meals a day or even three meals a day, a lot of times they don’t complain about it.”
Many older adults forgo buying food to pay for other expenses such as medicine or utility bills. Food assistance is helpful since many older adults have fixed incomes and the cost of living continues to increase.
MiCAFE reaches out to older adults through mailings, community centers and word of mouth. White especially encourages people to look at their own family members’ financial situations.
“Sometimes people get really busy with their own lives, and they just assume mom or dad has enough money to get by on, and people would be surprised at how many people who are older are financially struggling,” she said.
Across Michigan, MiCAFE helped 2,239 households apply for food assistance in 30 counties in 2009. On average, adults received $80 per month to buy food.
Adults can apply for food assistance by sitting down with someone to fill out paperwork at a community-based location. Representatives also help adults learn how to eat nutritionally on a budget and how to physically use a Bridge Card, Michigan’s food assistance system.
The program welcomes volunteers to work one-on-one with older adults. MiCAFE does not accept donations of food, but monetary gifts are appreciated. Call (866) 400-9164 to donate or (877) 664-2233 for more information.