Min*, a 65-year-old elderly woman, lives by herself in the Bronx. Due to her disability, Min is housebound and her mobility is restricted, making necessary tasks like going to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments particularly challenging. Min also lives on a fixed income, struggling to afford nutritious foods to help manage her preexisting conditions, including heart failure, blood clots in her legs, and diabetes.
When the COVID-19 outbreak shut down New York City, Min’s situation worsened. Not only was she at an increased risk of infection due to her age and preexisting conditions, but she was also suddenly cut off from her family members who used to visit her because of social distancing guidelines. She felt alone and unsettled.
In need of food assistance, Min tried to apply for SNAP (food stamps) on her own but found the process confusing and time-consuming. She recalls, “I did not understand the process for applying and was afraid I was doing it wrong.” After submitting her documents, she waited for days to learn if her application had been approved. She never heard back. Unaware that she needed to follow up on her application to submit additional documents, Min eventually discovered that her case had been closed.
Without the ability to visit food pantries due to her mobility restrictions and her SNAP case closed, Min felt overwhelmed by the thought of having to maintain a healthy diet. “I assumed that, with my case being closed, there were no other ways for me to get help. It was upsetting and concerning.”
Fortunately, a social worker at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi referred Min to Public Health Solutions’ (PHS)’ community resource network that connects New Yorkers in need with coordinated support to access food pantries, congregate meals, medically tailored home-delivered meals, and other food services.
Soon after, Janay Ramirez, PHS’ Food Navigator, reached out to Min to conduct a full assessment of Min’s situation so that she could offer solutions that met her unique needs. “Unfortunately, many people who come to us do not know that there are programs that go beyond general needs and can be tailored to health, diet, or other individual needs,” noted Janay. It was clear that Min needed help not only affording nutritious food but also having someone purchase, cook, and deliver it to her. Janay set to work connecting Min with resources and services specifically designed for these purposes.
First, Janay helped Min reopen her SNAP application and get approval for the program. Next, Janay connected Min with God’s Love We Deliver, a partner in PHS’ community resource network, which provides medically tailored meals for individuals who are unable to cook or shop for themselves due to medical conditions. Prior to her referral, Min was unaware of this organization, let alone that she qualified for its services.
Today, Min remains enrolled in both SNAP and God’s Love We Deliver and maintains regular communication with PHS staff to update her meal delivery plan based on her current medication. Having access to nutritious food has enabled her to manage her preexisting conditions and improve her overall. She is grateful to PHS for helping her navigate a complex health system and finding options that worked for her. “Working with Janay was a pleasure. She showed me that I was not alone, even when I thought there were no other options for me… I am now eating healthier and not frequenting the doctor as often,” said Min.
This holiday season, help New Yorkers like Min who need essential resources, have peace of mind knowing that their unique health and social needs are met through PHS’ community resource network. For just $375, you can provide a family access to this centralized network of resources such as food, health insurance, housing, legal aid, mental health services and so much more. Give today.
*Name changed to protect privacy.