July 5, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 26

Survey: Seniors get enough food

A recent survey in Haines found 96 percent of senior citizens felt they had enough to eat but only 57 percent were satisfied with the variety of foods in their diet, according to Martha Pearson, health promotion manager at Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Pearson presented findings from a survey of 67 residents over age 60 Saturday at the Haines public library. Katherine Friedle, a community dietician for SEARHC, conducted the survey and interviewed nearly all respondents in person.

The survey was intended to “assess availability of foods and the importance of local foods,” said Pearson. Its 34 questions included use of proxies to harvest subsistence foods for seniors.

“The data reflects a solid food system for elders,” said Pearson, adding that many comments praised the Haines Senior Center for frequently providing fresh and traditional foods.

There are, however, areas needing improvement.

Some seniors don’t know how the proxy system works or how to participate in it, Pearson said. The two biggest questions seniors had concerning local foods were “Where can I get it?” and “Who can bring it to me?” she said.

SEARHC presented the information hoping it would spur residents to create ways of providing better access and better structures of elder support in terms of native foods, said Pearson.

About a dozen people attended the Saturday meeting. Several ideas were suggested, including schedules about where and when to find freshly caught salmon, shrimp, and crab, and how to connect elders who qualify for proxies with potential helpers.

A remaining question has to do with seasonal availability of food and how that affects elders, which was not addressed in the survey, Pearson said.

Pearson said SEARHC can facilitate, but the community should look into creating new structures or modifying existing ones to ensure food distribution.

She said SEARHC and the Centers for Disease Control offer community transformation grants that could be used for improving access to food sources.