End of the Month Struggle
Sara shared that at the end of the month, “It always gets busy like this — really packed.Recently, we visited the San Carlos Older Adult Center located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. We didn’t realize that the 25th of the month would be especially busy.
Sara, the cook at the center, shared that at the end of the month, “it always gets busy like this — really packed. EBT is distributed from the 1st day of the month til about the 10th.”
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)—previously referred to as food stamps — were loaded onto individual cards and distributed at different times of the month depending on the letter of your last name. A-B’s received benefits the 1st day of the month and Y-Z’s received on the 13th day. This meant that many people were struggling financially by the end of the month, so were more likely to utilize the center’s services to meet their lunchtime meal needs.
As busy as it was, there were twice as many home deliveries as there were congregate meals. According to the transport list, there were 221 meals going into four San Carlos communities that day alone. That’s a lot of fuel to go through!
Fortunately, the Southwest Reservation Aid™ (SWRA) Program’s Standard Food service helped provide the center with monthly food staples which did not have to be purchased. This helped to save money for the center to purchase other necessities… like fuel, fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat.
Some of the Elders who came to the center found rides. Others either walked or drove —if they had vehicles. One of Sara’s volunteers, Bert, walked from his home to help out at the center. Bert lived near the San Carlos sawmill, which was an amazing 12 miles from the center! “There are times when he is waiting for us on the bench outside the center in the morning,” Sara said.
The day started early for Sara and her team of staff and volunteers. They usually came in around 6:30 am, but she added it could be, “earlier if we are cooking soup or roasts.” It took a lot of hands, many hours, and organizational skills to get over 300 meals into the mouths and homes of the Elders. Sara credited Bert and the other team members with knowing the system and helping start the day off in a good, productive way.
The menu utilized a couple of the items received from the SWRA shipment.On this day, the menu utilized a couple of the items received from the SWRA shipment: pasta for the macaroni soup, plus flour and sugar for the homemade rolls. Because the numbers were so large, Sara had to improvise. She warmed some tortillas on the grill to substitute the bread once they ran out.
While we talked, Sara shared some of the traditional foods that the Elders enjoyed during certain times of the year.
Acorn dumplings with stew meat were a favorite. They have even taken some Elders out to collect the acorns on Saturdays in Payson, AZ. Of course, the acorn picking was only the beginning of the process to make the soup. The shells had to be removed and finely ground. It could be made into a paste to use as a gravy or soup base. Or, it could be made into dumplings. The dumplings were coupled with stew meat and cut corn-on-the-cob for a well-rounded meal.
When asked what she enjoyed most about her job of nearly 20 years, she said, “To hear the Elders’ old time stories.”
Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to our Program Partners and generous donors who care that the end of the month is covered. This service is possible because of your support.