Seniors with Memory Loss Find Meaning in Smart Sacks Food Program

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September 17, 2012
GAITHERSBURG, Md. -  September is Hunger Action Month. It’s no secret that for many families food has become the greatest household expense, and often, there simply isn’t enough food. Local elementary school students considered at risk of hunger, however, have come to depend on the weekend Smart Sacks packed by residents with memory loss at the Wilson Health Care Center at Asbury Methodist Village, a Gaithersburg continuing care retirement community.

Working in partnership with the Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, the Smart Sack program provides the children with backpacks full of food every Friday to ensure they have food on the weekends when there are no school meals to sustain them. According the USDA’s most recent statistics, approximately 15 percent of United States households experienced some food insecurity during 2011.

“It’s amazing to watch these residents at an average age of 87 working together to make the Smart Sacks,” said Elaine Kielman, director of volunteer services and therapeutic programs at Asbury Methodist Village. “I walked in one day and asked what they were doing. Someone said, ‘We’re helping the children who are hungry.’ They understand to a point what they are doing.”

Kielman gives credit to associate Murv Delpino, a memory loss specialist, who brought the program to her attention last year because she thought it would be a meaningful activity. Volunteers assist about 20 residents who participate.

Volunteers pick up the packaged food products from Manna once every two weeks, then deliver 30 Smart Sacks each week to the Gaithersburg Elementary School, their “assigned school.” Founded in 2005, the Smart Sacks program currently operates in more than 50 elementary schools, feeding more than 1,600 children each week.

Asbury Methodist Village is a CARF-CCAC and EAGLE-accredited continuing care retirement community that is part of Asbury, a management organization providing life-enhancing services for older adults. Asbury is ranked by LeadingAge and Ziegler Capital Markets Group’s AZ 100 as the 15th-largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country. Asbury Methodist Village is also a member of LifeSpan Network.


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