Sgt. Thomas Burgess was doing a routine check-in on Tuesday at the home of an older man in Cumberland, Maine, when he realized the man hadn’t eaten all day.
But instead of recommending he sign up for Meals on Wheels, or leaving it to someone else to handle, Burgess took matters into his own hands: He fired up the stove, got some food from a local food pantry and got to work, according to a Facebook post the Cumberland Police Department put up Tuesday.
The Cumberland police department wrote that Burgess didn’t stop with dinner, though.
Burgess also “cleaned this gentleman's refrigerator when he restocked it, did a few dishes, laundry, [and] took out the trash,” police said.
Afterward, the department said they reached out to Meals on Wheels and other local resources to try to make sure the man gets the food he needs.
The older man the police officer helped get some food isn’t a rarity, either: More than 5 million Americans who are older than 60 struggle with hunger or food insecurity — about 8 percent of all seniors – according to Feeding America, a network of food banks.
Health challenges and a lack of transportation options sometimes make it harder for older Americans to access food, according to Feeding America, and some seniors find themselves faced with a choice between paying for medicine and paying for food.
At the same time, three in five seniors who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, aren’t signed up for the program, according to the National Council on Aging. That means 5.3 million seniors who could be getting food assistance through the federal program are not.
The post about Burgess has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook, with many worried users asking what they could do to help.
“Sgt. Burgess has kind of taken this person under his wing and is going to make sure he gets whatever help he may need from the state, family, medically, etc.” the department wrote.