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West Valley senior center aims to help older adults struggling with food insecurity and loneliness

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Monday, June 19, 2023 - 3:09pm

Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
The new Banner Olive Branch Senior Center has a library, a fitness area, a movie room and plenty of space for folks who spend a good part of their day here. The goal is to minimize social isolation and offer healthy meals.

Many older adults are struggling with food insecurity or just loneliness. A new senior center in the West Valley that aims to make life a little easier.

Sandy Mitchell comes to the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center, which opened about a month and a half ago, every day.

"This is my table," she said with a laugh. "I will always sit at it. And then this is the Monday ladies, they only come here on Mondays."

Besides socializing, she enjoys lunch and stops by the food pantry.

"I just have a retirement income coming in. And so, I have to pay for gas, utilities, all that good stuff. And this really saves money for me."

Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Sandy Mitchell comes to the senior center to socialize, enjoy lunch and visit the food pantry.

Mitchell is one of a couple hundred people who come through the pantry daily.

Julie Ash is the center’s Community Outreach representative.

"So as you can see we set this up as a grocery store," explained Ash.

Ash says there’s some dignity in that, so folks, like Mitchell, can pop in and take what they need. 

"Our volume has increased quite a bit because people can't afford it ... like they can't afford to go to the grocery store and get what they need. But at least they can always come here and get fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables cost more," Ash said. 

Anyone in the community is welcome here. All they have to do is declare a need. 

Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
The Banner Olive Branch Senior Center's food pantry is set up to look like a grocery store. Older adults can pick and choose what they need or want.

Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Julie Ash is the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center's Community Outreach representative.
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
The food pantry offers a variety of fruits and vegetables, something that has risen in price lately.
Kathy Ritchie/KJZZ
Anyone in the community is welcome to the food pantry. The goal is to provide nutritious food, which is often too expensive for many older adults on a fixed income.
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