Senior Help: Food drive held to assist older citizens impacted by COVID-19

Food distributions continue across the Rio Grande Valley as communities navigate venturing outside under lifted state-wide emergency orders that mean local officials could no longer mandate that residents wear masks.

This has created complications for senior citizens with underlying conditions who cannot leave their homes because they’re at high risk of developing serious illness if they contract the virus.

In response to growing concern over food insecurity, the Area Agency on Aging of the Lower Rio Grande Valley coordinated the meal handout in conjunction with regional partners including the Cameron County Emergency Program, the Willacy County Judge’s Office, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, using private-sector donations,

“We’re coordinating this meal assistance for seniors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Cameron and Willacy County areas,” said Belinda Aguilar, emergency services district coordinator for Cameron County.

Employees of Cameron County Public Works Precinct 2 outfitted in full personal protective equipment passed the purple, mesh bundles from inside the warehouse as vehicles drove through one by one. “This morning when we went ahead and opened up there was a line from here all the way to the Sports Park,” said Eric Hinojosa on a break from distribution.

Greeting residents before they entered the warehouse were volunteers with the 2020 Census outreach and Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas handing out literature and bags used to dispose of expired medication.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Joey Lopez helped organize the event after the food bank called his office wanting to distribute about 1,200 meals. “Right now, we’ve given out probably 250 to 300 bags. They have peanut butter, rice, caned goods. It’s a dry bag,” he said.

Lopez estimated that volunteers passed out 200 bags within the first hour of the distribution event. He took a break from handing out bundles to take 15 of them to Centro Cultural in Cameron Park. The center has a cooperative with Willacy County and assists senior citizen residents.

“We’re just trying to get some food out to these senior citizens who can’t really get out. The economic situation isn’t great right now, but there’s a lot of help,” he said.

“There have been a lot of people helping out with meals and getting food out to everybody. Right now, we need to be careful with our senior citizens and people who have conditions like asthma and pneumonia. We need to be aware that even though we might be able to get through this like it’s a regular cold, other people are vulnerable,” Lopez said.