As essentials like food, water and, yes, even toilet paper fly off the shelves at grocery stores across the country due to the global coronavirus pandemic, local stores are doing all they can to ensure those most-affected by the disease are able to buy what they need in peace.
While shelter in place orders have many flocking to the food aisle in order to ensure they have enough supplies at home to quarantine, it’s caused a conundrum for seniors over the age of 65 and other at-risk community members who are believed to be affected by the respiratory disease more than others: Should they go out to find food, and if they do, will there be any left?
Beginning Saturday, Raley’s will begin distributing “Senior Essentials Bags” to help keep these compromised customers safe. Intended for seniors or at-risk people in self-isolation or quarantine, store team members will build as many Senior Essentials Bags as they can each day, which will be available to customers at each store depending on inventory levels.
In a video message announcing the Seniors Essentials Bags, Raley’s President and CEO Keith Knopf urged the community to keep others in mind while shopping.
“Please know the food system in the United States is the most sophisticated and robust in the world, and amid rational demand it will keep up,” he said. “If we all normalize our buying behavior and resist the unnecessary need to stockpile, everyone can have what they need.”
Raley’s will have two unique Senior Essentials Bags available for purchase at a discounted price, which can be picked up daily curbside or in-store.
For $20, bags that include a mix of fresh items and pantry staples like oatmeal, soup, potatoes, fruit, sausage and more can be purchased. For $35, at-risk community members can grab bags that contain fresh, ready-to-eat meals.
Several other grocery stores have designated special hours for senior and other at-risk community members to shop away from the general public, including Target (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays), Dollar General (first hour), Safeway (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays), Walmart (6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesdays starting March 24) and Save Mart and FoodMaxx (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays).
According to Victoria Castro of Save Mart, there will be no enforcement of the special shopping hour and the store hopes the community leaves it open for those who truly need it.
“We’ve asked all of our guests to respect the early hours in our stores on Tuesday and Thursday to allow higher risk guests to use the store,” Castro said. “We are relying on the community to use best judgement about whether or not to shop our stores during these times.”
Local senior and community centers will also serve as distribution sites for frozen meals packs, meant to replace the senior congregate lunch programs that were closed.
Starting Monday, seniors older than 60 can visit one of these distribution points
and register to pick up a five-pack box of Sun Meadow frozen meals. Each box contains five frozen entrees, milk, juice or fruit cup and a mini loaf of bread. Those who are interested should call the Senior Information Line to reserve meals. Supplies will be limited in the first week but the Area Agency on Aging plans to order additional meals to meet growing demand.
Meal Distribution schedule and sites will be as follows:
Monday: Riverbank Community Center & Grayson United Community Center
Tuesday: Oakdale Senior Center and Mancini Hall (Modesto)
Wednesday: Modesto Senior Center and Hughson Community Center
Thursday: Patterson Senior Center
Friday: Veterans Center (our office at 3500 Coffee Rd Modesto)
United Samaritan Foundation USF - Turlock (upon request).
There is no change to the current weekly delivery of frozen five pack boxes of meals to homebound seniors. The priority for the new on-going weekly delivery of frozen meals is for homebound seniors who cannot drive and typically live alone who are struggling with limited shopping/cooking help. Homebound spouses and/or disabled adult children residing with them may also be eligible.
Call the Senior Information Line at 558-8698 to learn more, to check eligibility, to apply for long-term home delivered meals or if you are a senior looking for assistance with meal pick up and grocery assistance.
While school districts have closed, the need for some students to get meal service has not ended. Turlock Unified School District has drive-thru grab and go breakfast and lunch meals that are available for pickup from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through April 9. Children 18 or under must be present for each meal received. The distribution sites are at Crowell, Cunningham, Earl, Julien, Osborn, Wakefield, and Turlock Junior High School.
Beginning Monday, Denair area students can pick up breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., and then between 10:30 a.m. and noon get lunch for that day as well as breakfast for the next day will be handed out in the middle school parking lot.
Both meals will be distributed Tuesdays through Thursdays between 10:30 a.m. and noon, and only lunch will be provided during the same time on Fridays.
Also next week, two remote delivery sites will be added Monday through Friday: Denair Friends Church, 4033 N. Gratton Road, from 10:35 to 10:55 a.m.; and Olsen’s Fabricating, 5906 N. Montpelier Road, from 11:05 to 11:25 a.m.
Lunches and the next day’s breakfast will be available Monday through Thursday, and lunches only on Friday at the off-campus sites.
Hilmar High School is a distribution site for Hilmar school students. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.