Editor’s note: Patricia Keelean is the CEO of CommUnify, a nonprofit that works with the community to provide education and supportive services to Santa Barbara County residents, resulting in improved economic security and self-sufficiency.
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news.
But facing reality and making hard choices is something our community has been forced to do these past 12 months, and CommUnify is no exception. It is with great sadness we announce that effective July 1, 2021, CommUnify plans to suspend our Senior Nutrition Program, which has served low-income seniors in our community for 47 years.
Why? Lack of funding.
While we are grateful for the federal funding we receive to feed seniors, no nonprofit organization can operate a program that only receives 40-45% of the funding needed to provide services. It is simply not sustainable.
For 10 years, CommUnify has absorbed nearly $4 million in unfunded expenses, covering deficits with our reserves in order to maintain this countywide meal service.
But we can no longer operate in a financial hole, as it threatens the long-term financial stability of the organization. The only way to continue providing nutritious meals to our low-income seniors, many who are homebound, is with an additional $600,000-$700,000 in permanent funding.
Even with this amount, our organization would still be committing to fundraise approximately $400,000-$500,000 annually just to break even.
Making matters worse, food insecurity among seniors during the pandemic has increased and the demand for meals has soared. In April alone, CommUnify served more than 17,000 meals countywide — and the requests from seniors continue.
Over the past year, we incurred additional costs associated with COVID-19 In fact, with community dining sites closed, nearly all meals had to be delivered directly to the seniors’ homes. This required more staff, training, vehicles, gas and maintenance.
With the assistance of a very generous philanthropic community, we have been able to address some of those costs. But as the community needs ballooned and costs skyrocketed, funding has not kept pace and our deficit has swelled past $1 million annually.
It is our hope that the local community will step in to provide the funding needed to prevent the closure of CommUnify’s Senior Nutrition Program. It has been a privilege serving those most vulnerable in our community for all these years, and we hope our program can continue to meet this critical basic need for those who helped to build this community. We can be reached online at www.communifysb.org/senior-services/healthy-table, or by calling 800-655-0617.