Hungry and Homebound

In the photo, an overweight, grey-haired African American woman in a wheelchair eats from a styrofoam container. It isn’t particularly artful or compelling, but the Beth Hark Christian Counseling Center chose to feature this woman on their brochure because her story encompasses nearly everything they do.

The woman in the picture is Miss Mae – as Joan Williams, Executive Director of the Beth Hark Christian Counseling Center calls her. In her 80s, Miss Mae could not long ago be seen daily outside of a Harlem grocery store. Her son, now in prison, would deposit her there everyday so that she could beg for food.

Today, Ms. Mae is under much better care – she has a full time attendant and apartment to herself. This hard-to-digest case is just one explanation for the many forces working against one of the communities most vulnerable to food insecurity – the elderly, disabled or otherwise homebound. So much of New York City’s food assistance options require mobility, the capability to keep track of records and mail documents, or some kind of community or family assistance.

Through Medicare and other services Ms. Mae was able to get the medical and physical care she needed, but even after all the paperwork, recent changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program made it more difficult for her to eat for health at all times. And she still required food to be delivered since it is difficult for her to get around. That’s where Beth Hark comes in.

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