What’s New with the Brown Bag Program?

The Mercy Brown Bag Program is going strong this summer, with a new cooler that allows storage of twice as much produce. Filled with a summer bounty — including melons, cucumbers, strawberries, zucchini, pears, apples, oranges, bell peppers, peaches, plums, nectarines, corn on the cob, broccoli, collard greens and hot peppers — along with tofu, eggs and fresh milk, the cooler is helping the program meet its expanded demand.

Food distributions at Mercy Retirement & Care Center have grown by a third this year alone and now top 300 bags, said Mercy Brown Bag Program Director Krista Lucchesi. For more than 35 years, Brown Bag Program volunteers have distributed canned goods, fresh produce and other groceries to older adults throughout Alameda County. In 2016, the program assisted nearly 5,000 low-income seniors with more than 1 million pounds of groceries.

In addition, Lucchesi said volunteers can collect and use more information to better assist seniors. “Our new web-based database is about 98-percent complete, so we are able to collect and manipulate more information and even survey folks,” she said.

Team members also have completed a 3-year strategic plan. Highlights of the plan include working to grow distributions, engage more donors, and make more people aware of the struggles of senior hunger and how the program is changing it.

Food insecurity and senior hunger are problems in Alameda County, Lucchesi said. Census data indicate that almost 40,000 adults ages 60 and over survive on incomes of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The Brown Bag Program assists seniors in stretching their budgets and increasing their chances of maintaining safe housing and reducing stress.

Mobile Grocery Truck

The program’s Mobile Grocery Truck serves nine sites, Lucchesi said.

“In our first full year of operation, we served 853 individuals who came a total of 6,434 times,” she noted. “The truck moved a quarter of a million pounds of nutritious food into our community.”

Mercy Retirement & Care Center created the Mobile Grocery Truck to deliver nutritious groceries directly to seniors who need them. The truck can pull into parking lots, or it can park alongside city blocks to distribute food to seniors. In addition, automated shelves can be lowered to assist seniors as they shop for food items, including fresh produce, lean proteins and whole grains, at no charge.

Mercy Retirement & Care Center began the Brown Bag Program in 1982. Today, Mercy partners with the Alameda County Community Food Bank to serve low-income seniors who need assistance with food. We invite you to learn more about supporting the Mercy Brown Bag Program.