RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation helped fund its North County Senior Connections (NCSC) pilot program last November and in a relatively short amount of time, it’s receiving much praise as it shifts gears into 2015.
Sue Pyke, donor services director, at the RSF Foundation explained how NCSC has been a collaborative program among other nonprofits such as Interfaith Community Services and Dreams for Change.
The core of the program is to provide nutritional meals and social activities to vulnerable seniors living in North County.
“We can take nutritional meals to the seniors where they are located, and that’s important because we found in doing the feasibility study and research for this program, that transportation for seniors is a big issue. It’s a challenge for them to get to a central location,” Pyke said. “The idea of actually taking the food to the seniors was an innovative part of this program and that’s where the food truck came in as the idea in providing nutritional meals.”
According to Pyke the study was conducted by the Nonprofit Research Center at the University of San Diego and meals are being prepared by the Thyme Together food truck.
Pyke wanted to make it clear that the Foundation was not providing the program, but helping with funds to organizations to they can help execute the program.
“We are looking at about a $750,000 total cost of the multi-year three-year program, and we are covering about half of that amount,” Pyke said. “And we are looking to other funders, individuals, foundations, and organizations to come together to provide the other half of that funding.”
The RSF Foundation is searching for broad community support to even help augment the funding that it’s providing.
While the program is brand new, Pyke said, it received a stronger response than it was anticipating. In its early estimations, they were hoping to provide meals to 200 seniors within the first 6 months of the pilot program. To date, it’s served 182 lunches to seniors at the following locations:
Vista Village Mobile Home Park, Vista
San Marcos Lutheran Church, San Marcos
St. Francis of Assisi, Vista
El Dorado Mobile Home Park, San Marcos
The Thyme Truck is out four days a week, visiting one of the above locations on a specific day. Lunches are $2 and it’s estimated that the lunches cost $3.50 each.
Pyke pointed out that CalFresh is also accepted so seniors can use it to pay for the meal as well.
Mealtime also extends to social programs and seniors get to interact with others. Following lunch, Interfaith Community Services sometimes provides other social activities such as line dancing, yoga, or tips to write a memoir.
Christy Wilson, executive director at the RSF Foundation shared her positive response received from the NCSC pilot program.
The first, she said, was the actual feedback they are getting from seniors who are receiving meals. A couple of weeks ago, Wilson was at one of the lunch sites and a senior asked her why they were doing this.
She told the woman, “This program provides us an opportunity to do two things: give you access to healthy, good nutritious meals and opportunities for socialization and activities that you might not otherwise partake in.”
Wilson said the senior who asked the question had a big smile on her face.
Looking into 2015, Wilson said they will continue to push and expand its numbers. While following a fundraising plan, Wilson hopes they will be able to roll out a second food truck in 2015.
“That will only happen if the need is out there and the funding is there to do it,” Wilson said. We believe the need is there and we believe the interest is there.”
On a personal level, Wilson shared how this program has profoundly affected her. She was the one who brought this concept to the board a couple years ago.
“It’s very gratifying to see that the Foundation’s board has embraced this. It’s a new way for us to do business and the community has come alongside us to help,” Wilson said.
When Wilson personally witnesses seniors eating healthy meals and taking part in social activities, she can’t help but feel a strong sense of fulfillment.
“With the support of my board and staff, we’ve brought it to fruition. It’s really exciting,” she said.
To learn more, please visit rsffoundation.org.