CEO calls massive increase of seniors using food pantry 'alarming'

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- It’s cause for alarm, says the CEO of a local food pantry: The number of seniors walking through the doors is skyrocketing, and it’s likely just begun.

“Compared from January to November, we saw in the neighborhood of roughly 500 to 600 percent increases for the ages of 51 and above,” said Mike Hornecek, CEO of Together Inc., which houses the Together Food Pantry.

“We’ve had increases in the past, but nothing like that, that it’s extremely alarming,” said Hornecek, noting as baby boomers continue to age, the need is only going to continue to grow.

“You’re at a point in your life where there’s not a lot of things you can dramatically change, so if you’re walking through our door there’s a good chance you’ll be walking through somebody’s door for the indefinite future,” Hornecek said.

James E. Lester is one of the skyrocketing numbers of seniors relying on the Together Food Pantry.

“When I run out of food it’s in walking distance and everything else,” said Lester. “I don’t really have transportation to get around, so it comes in very handy for me.”

Over at the Open Door Mission food pantry, they’re seeing more and more seniors accessing their food pantry to help take care of their grown-up children and grandchildren.

“You know the grandparent’s children are or aren’t in the picture so they’re taking an already really tight budget and stretching it to try to make ends meet for their family,” said Amy Harvey, community relations director at Open Door Mission.

The Together Food Pantry has by far seen the biggest spike with seniors, but Hornecek believes other pantries will also continue to see a rise.

"I don't know if people will continue to see the types of increases we've seen. But unfortunately, I don't think this is an anomaly; and I don't think it's going to stop."