A Yakima Valley fruit farm has launched a program intended to improve elderly eaters' access to fresh produce.
While many senior-care homes statewide have partnered with farmers to host monthly farmers markets or add locally grown fruits and vegetables to their cafeteria menus, Julia Valicoff of Valicoff Fruit Company says few Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) providers have yet tapped into the nursing-home market.
Valicoff and her father this summer started delivering three-pound bags of fresh fruit to the Life Manor retirement community in Tacoma, and will add Bellevue's The Gardens at Town Square to its weekly route this week.
"I think it's cool because it's something they don't really get," Valicoff says. "It's a perfect deal for them."
According to Rosemary Biggins, who administers the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program for the state, there aren't any statistics on CSA usage by nursing-home residents, since a subscription is a private purchase. But many CSAs require their subscribers to show up at a designated drop point or mete out shares in larger portions than most nursing-home residents can manage.
Other options for obtaining fresh produce are similarly fraught, says Valicoff, who worked in assisted-living facilities before enrolling in University of Washington's nursing school.
Residents who can cook for themselves are sometimes offered shuttle trips to grocery stores such as Fred Meyer, where the produce is often "not fresh and local," Valicoff clucks. "Plus, the prices are jacked up so much."
Valicoff's been more impressed by programs that bring farmers to senior-care campuses, but she's unaware of any markets that convene more than once a month. "Once a month, you'd miss a whole season," Valicoff says.
The Valicoffs recently dropped off boxes of cherries and apricots at Life Manor, and are planning a delivery of peaches and nectarines. In addition to the fruit, the Valicoffs also bring pictures of their orchards to share with residents.
"They always complained about the food, and I never knew how to help them," Valicoff says, recalling her former charges. "Apparently they really like this."