The senior community Larry and his wife live in has gone quiet. All social gatherings and community spaces are canceled and closed up for the foreseeable future. His job as a crossing guard at the local school has stopped too. “We’re out of school right now, so,” Larry pauses for a deep breath, “So with school down and everything, it’s just… they want everybody to stay at home, so I’m staying at home.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit Texas, Larry’s finances were tight. A veteran, Larry turns to Veteran Affairs for his health care, but over the years, the cost has increased. “I go to the VA, and I pay a copay for my scripts…Then they have started charging me $50 a visit to go see the doctor. And I’ve got so many doctors. I’ve got heart doctors, I’ve got diabetes doctor, I’ve got my regular doctor, I’ve got a neurosurgeon.”
To cover their rising health care costs, Larry and his wife of 53 years have had to make some adjustments. “It has been tough. We have turned off my TV and my landline phone. I just got this little cell phone [to] get emails and stuff from the school.”
The couple has also turned to their local Central Texas Food Bank distribution. This meant that when the pandemic hit, they had food in their house. “If it wasn’t for y’all down there giving out stuff, it really would have been bad.”
“People have just gone crazy because of all the hoarding of stuff that they’ve done, like [toilet] paper. Things like paper and meat, they have just, oh my god…where in the world do they have the money to do that?”
The recommendation to stock up on staples to avoid trips to the grocery stores is impossible for people who can only afford to buy small amounts of food and basic supplies at a time. Food banks are working tirelessly to support families to fill in those gaps and are coming up with creative solutions to keep community members in their cars or homes to help with social distancing.
The ability to stay home as much as possible is especially important for seniors like Larry and his wife who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. For Larry, the fear of getting sick isn’t just about the disease but the financial implications of a hospital stay. “Ain’t no way I could do it. I would just have to quit my drugs and going to the doctor so much. And with a pacemaker and all of that stuff, I wouldn’t be living very long.”
So Larry plans to do whatever he can to keep him and his wife safe and healthy, including picking up food from the food bank. “I never thought that I would be in this kind of situation. But it’s got to the point that—I mean, I don’t really have any choice. And you know, I don’t want to—I don’t want to have to depend on somebody else and everything else, but sometimes it gets to that point where you have to.”
To find where you can access food bank services, visit to feedingtexas.org/get-help/.