Nonprofit Saving Our Seniors expands its impact with new Produce Pac program

Tampa Bay nonprofit Saving Our Seniors is expanding its services to meet a community need. 

On April 6th, the organization will officially launch Produce Pac, a healthy eating program that sells a selection of 10 to 14 locally sourced produce. For each Produce Pac purchased, Saving Our Seniors will donate a  Produce Pac to a senior in the community, says CEO and founder Kelli Casto.

Each Produce Pac is also customizable to the purchaser’s preference. 

“We all know not everyone loves broccoli,” Casto says.”So, individuals in our community will choose the pack type: mixed, veggie or fruit only.”

While filling out an online order form, customers choose the size – small or large – and the frequency of delivery. 

“Every Thursday, you place your order by midnight, and by Saturday mid-day, you will have your Produce Pac delivered to your door in an eco-friendly bag,” Casto says.

The new program continues to expand Saving Our Seniors’ community impact. Casto, an occupational therapist, launched the nonprofit in 2016 to provide medical equipment, incontinent supplies and other necessary items to seniors living below the poverty line. The nonprofit later expanded to add a farmers market program.

Saving Our Senior now operates six days a week to deliver fresh produce and medical equipment. Casto drives an average of 300 miles per day responding to the needs of the seniors that the organization serves. 

“Our organization serves 14,000 seniors a month and funding is difficult,” she says. “Sometimes, we have both trucks out, and this week we have 26 stops.”

“We are on the mission of self-supporting our organization’s budget,” Casto adds. “Produce Pac will respond to the organization's financial needs."
Derry, who did not give his last name, is a senior living in Town Shores of Gulfport, where Saving Our Seniors has a program distributing produce. 

Saving Our Seniors also has a farmers market program to provide seniors with healthy, fresh produce and fruit.“I don’t have a focus on a particular produce, but I know all are good,” he says. "It is a really good program.”

Cathy Newell, a retired occupational therapist, has been volunteering with Saving Our Seniors for two years. She says the organization needs more volunteers to help meet the community need.

“This is not a handout,” Newell says. “Instead, it’s payback to our seniors who have worked all their lives; our country was built on their backs.”

Helping seniors is meaningful. Some of them can’t afford fresh food. Others no longer drive and rely on public transportation. For that reason, Saving Our Seniors frequently visits mobile home parks to help the people they serve where they live.

“We started our fresh market at age-restricted communities and then increased to senior centers and recreation centers, but there is still a huge market of seniors that are living at home, with one or more chronic illnesses, little to no family support, and they also want access to fresh produce,” Casto says.

With Produce Pac, the organization aims to raise funds to cover expenditures and continue its mission. 

“Our Produce Pac will allow us to increase our reach,” Casto says. “Our new goal is to have 28,000 seniors a month.”

Saving Our Seniors also serves about 300 seniors by helping them with 36 different types of medical equipment, including walkers, bed rails, electric hospital beds and manual Hoyer lifts.

“They paved the way for you and me; we should do better to provide them with everything,” Casto says. “Our fresh markets provide more than fresh produce; we provide hope, independence, love and interaction.”

For more information, go to Produce Pac.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Bob Simon.

Bob Simon is a freelance magazine/newspaper journalist residing in Tampa. He is earning his MA in journalism from Regent University. Bob is also a multimedia content producer and social media specialist. His enthusiasm for journalism sparked while working as a general assignment reporter in 2015. Now, he is dedicated to reporting newsworthy stories about places, people and issues. For him, journalism is about people and their thirst for peace, equity and human rights. Learn more about Bob and his works. @facebook @twitter