Role reversal: a senior cooks for his mom with help from Mobile Pantries

Ken sits in his truck bed holding food.

Ken fondly remembers the meals he ate as a kid.

“My mother is Spanish, so I grew up eating scrambled eggs, tortillas, hot tamales,” he said.

He grew up in West Michigan but left more than 40 years ago for Alabama —“to make my way in the world,” he said. He succeeded in forging his own path and spent many years working various outdoor jobs, until his recent retirement.

A man peers out of his car. He is middle aged and wearing statement glasses.

Two years ago, his mother began experiencing health issues, so he moved back home to Michigan to care for her.

“She’s getting up in age,” he said. “I’m staying with her right now because I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

Now, he’s the one cooking for his mom — “eggs, bacon, oatmeal,” he said.

To supplement their food budget, he visits Mobile Food Pantries twice per month near their home in Wyoming, Michigan.

“It’s to help my mom because she’s low-income,” he said. “Her memory is kind of going, so she really needs a lot of help. I’m her driver. I take her wherever she needs to go. That’s why I’m here.”

At Mobile Pantries, like the ones hosted by Beverly Christian Reformed Church, he receives plenty of fresh produce, dairy products and other food. To give back, Ken and his mom even began volunteering at some of the Mobile Pantries that helped them.

“I wanted to do something,” he said. “They were there for us, so I wanted to help.”

Ken sits in his truck bed holding food.

Because his mom’s health has deteriorated, she can no longer volunteer, but Ken still finds ways to show his appreciation.

“I thank the volunteers a lot,” he said. “They are true blessings.”

Ken and his mom are among the 5.2 million seniors age 60 and older in the U.S. who are food insecure. This means they can’t always access or afford enough food to live a healthy lifestyle. Food insecure seniors are more likely to develop nutrition-related health problems, but the support of existing senior hunger-relief programs isn’t always enough.

Mobile Food Pantries aim to fill this gap across the 40 counties Feeding America West Michigan serves. With the help of supporters like the Wyoming Community Foundation, the food bank can continue to ensure neighbors like Ken and his mom have access to the healthy food they need, no matter their age.

Story written by Communication and Marketing Specialist Juliana Ludema