Rose receives her meals at home.
The delivery takes almost 35 minutes one way. The delivered meals must maintain appropriate temperatures during transport for the food to arrive safe and fresh. Aluminum containers with tight-fitted lids, Styrofoam containers, and carrying containers are used to ensure food safety.
All these supplies are a cost to the Elderly Feeding Centers. The food items that are supplied by the SWRA Program help the center save money in order to purchase these supplies, as well as order more lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
Living in a “food desert,” where there are barriers to access nutritional food, can make healthy products feel out-of-reach. The SWRA Program Partners make sure that their donations are used to provide the greatest benefit to their Native American elderly clients.
Sweetwater is a beautiful community nestled in the stunning Carrizo Mountains, with majestic sandstone canyons and colorful mesas. It’s located in the northern part of Apache County in Arizona, near the Four Corners area.
Despite all the beauty that surrounds Sweetwater, the Senior Center has at least five challenges they face daily to keep their Elders healthy:
- Distance and remoteness: The home delivery route takes hours to accomplish. The site provides congregate meals, but many Elders are homebound and rely on their meals to be delivered to their doors.
- Road conditions: The main highway that runs east and west is situated 20 miles north of the community. Another road runs north and south. None of these paved roads touches Sweetwater. Dirt, silt, and some gravel make up the byways that lead into getting into Sweetwater to the Senior Center and to the Elders' homes. When rain falls, it makes deliveries more difficult.
- Health: Apache County has the highest rate of adult residents diagnosed with diabetes (12.8% in 2008) and the second highest rate of obesity (31.5%) in Arizona. Because much of Apache County is defined as a “food desert,” lacking ready access to healthy foods exacerbates diabetes and obesity in this area.
- Water: During 2007-2010, the Northern Agency wells of the Navajo Nation were sampled. Wells in many communities exceeded the maximum contaminant level(s). Water from two wells under the Sweetwater Chapter was deemed UNSAFE. Unregulated water sources often contain bacteria that may cause immediate health problems. Some of these health issues include increased risk of cancer and kidney disease.
- Poverty of Elders: 44.4% of Elders aged 65 and over living on the Navajo Nation are living in poverty (compared to the USA at 9.5%).
In 2011, the SWRA Program provided 308 Standard Food packages in 61 communities on 14 reservations located in 5 states throughout the Southwest United States. These packages provided enough food for over 30,000 people!
Thank you for your support and caring heart for Native American Elders like Rose.
Your dedication is greatly appreciated!