Senior Services Nutrition Transportation Serves Ethnic Communities
Meal programs throughout King County provide elders with nutritious hot lunches. Aging and Disability Services (ADS) funds approximately 11 agencies serving meals at 45 meal sites throughout the county. Over twenty of these sites serve an ethnic-specific clientele, including Asian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Filipino, Hmong, IndoChinese, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Laotian, Latino, Mien, Native American, Oromo, Polynesian, Somali, Ukrainian and Vietnamese seniors.
Abdullhai Ahmed, a driver for the Senior Services Nutrition Transportation program, assists clients Habibo Ismail and Halimo Muse to the Somali meal program.
For our ethnic elders, getting to these meal sites may be challenging. Through funding from ADS and a partnership with King County Metro, Senior Services Transportation program is able to serve some of these elders. "We have shuttles designated for specific meal programs. Shuttle drivers pick up participants from their home or designated area and take them to the meal site," says Transportation Program Director Cindy Zwart. "Elders who share the same culture and language feel more comfortable riding on our shuttles. If possible, we match drivers that speak the same language with the community they transport."
Through the Senior Services cultural competency initiative, Zwart understands the value of providing this service to the ethnic elders. In 2009 the Nutrition Transportation program served almost 1600 clients; 85% were an ethnic minority, 74% were limited-English speaking, and 64% were from the refugee/immigrant community. Zwart has embraced the initiative and has expanded service to Saturdays to accommodate Somali and Ethiopian and Eritrean meal programs.
"The elders definitely like it," says Sahra Farah, Director of the Somali Community Services of Seattle. "They are happy that they are all together on the van." Farah explains that without the shuttle service, some elders would not come to the lunch program. Due to recent changes in the Metro bus route, elders have to catch three buses and ride for over two hours for their hot meal.
The Shuttle program currently serves approximately 15 meal sites per week but more service is needed. Zwart says, "We'd like to serve all the communities that request shuttle service but this is just not possible. The demand is high and we have a waiting list of programs that would like our service. We are reaching as much as possible with the limited funds we have."
One of the programs on the waiting list is the International Drop-In Center (IDIC) serving the Filipino Community. Changes in the Metro bus route also affected this community, making it difficult for elders to attend the center.
Peter Leota Strickland, President of the Samoan American Pacific Organization, is also on the waiting list. Although his elders currently receive shuttle service, the shuttle is at its maximum capacity. More elders in need of a hot lunch would attend his program if another shuttle was provided.
For more information about the Transportation program or to request a ride, please call the Senior Shuttle office at 206-727-6255.