Local woman shares experience, urges others to ‘ask for help’
MARQUETTE — Maggi Haupt, 71, is a resident of Snowberry Heights Apartments, a community for seniors 62 and above, as well as those who are disabled or handicapped. For Haupt, learning to navigate food insecurity became a necessary norm in her life before the COVID-19 shutdowns further complicated existing challenges.
For example, mobile food pantry visits to the Upper Peninsula were previously “few and far between” and the schedule irregular, Haupt said. Before the need to socially distance, Haupt drove a group of other seniors with her to the Feeding America West Michigan trucks when they visited town.
However, it seemed demand was high, even at that time.
“By the time we got there,” she explained, “sometimes there would be barely anything left because there were so many people in the same boat. And that was even before the pandemic.”
While Haupt was previously on long-term disability from an employer, her income decreased by a third when she turned 70.
“That was a major adjustment, and it’s just something you gotta adjust to. You live within the money you have. There’s always something in someone’s particular life … that suck(s) up money.” And as Haupt demonstrated in her recollection of past food truck visits, she was certainly not alone.
Like Haupt, many seniors experiencing food insecurity live off a fixed income, one which rarely allows for much stretching outside of the bare minimum.
“A lot of older adults, unfortunately, don’t have a generous retirement income. They might be living on nothing but Social Security. Some might not have Social Security,” David Buys, an associate professor at Mississipi State University Extension was quoted as saying in a paper by researcher Bridget Balch.
Several unique barriers contribute to elevated rates of food insecurity among seniors. Haupt noted transportation access as a primary concern for the food insecure seniors she lives with.
“I drive,” Haupt clarified, “but I live in Snowberry and there’s many people here who do not drive for various reasons, and they cannot get out to the Feeding America Trucks, and since the pandemic, I have not taken anyone with me.”
The COVID-19 pandemic added many barriers to those who were already facing access issues in the older adult community. The most pressing being the fear of COVID-19 infection and increased risk of related complications.
Haupt was among the many seniors and others who were forced to retreat from community spaces amid the pandemic.
“I pretty much shut my life down,” she explained of the last year. “I have health issues, I take medicine that’s for my immune system, so I pretty much shut myself in.”
However, Haupt said her daughter has been able to grocery shop for her, while many of her neighbors don’t have family members nearby to assist them, she said. For those residents, Econo Foods offers a delivery service, which she said has helped her neighbors at Snowberry who lacked the family or friends who could do the same for them.
“They deliver here for just a $4 fee,” Haupt explained, “and they do it three days a week. I know people that use that service here (at Snowberry).
“That’s a real gift.”
In addition to transportation, the increased reliance on internet to access resources became an even more prevalent barrier to many in the older adult community, according to Haupt and community organization leaders.
While Haupt is among the fortunate who were more comfortable using computers to search for resources, she is aware of many who are not.
“I have internet. Not a lot of people do,” she explained. Then, joking, she added, “I was still working and had children at home who knew what computers were, who kind of shoved it down my throat. I’m still afraid of my computer. I don’t think it likes me.”
Haupt has been grateful, however, for having the skill set. “That helps me find out more (resources), because I have access to the internet.”
For those who are not yet connected to the local, state and federal assistance available to them, Haupt has an encouraging message.
“Anyone that doesn’t use the services at the senior center, they have three social workers there and we have two great social workers here at Snowberry who are so knowledgeable about where to get help,” she said. “It’s hard — and I had to learn myself — it’s hard to ask for help and that’s a big barrier for people.”
Shannon Konoske can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is email@example.com.