Hunger-Free Pennsylvania Executive Director Sheila Christopher is happy 1,300 Westmoreland County seniors take advantage of the food boxes available each month through the group’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP.
Unfortunately, it represents only 10% of the county’s eligible seniors, and Christopher, along with county food bank CEO Jennifer Miller, are hoping to boost that number.
“There are 12,229 seniors who are eligible, just over 12% of the county’s senior population,” said Christopher, who was at the food bank in Delmont on Friday for the program’s biennial compliance check. “We can do 36,200 boxes per month in Pennsylvania, but we know that there are 370,000 seniors in Pennsylvania who qualify.”
In an effort to boost the program’s numbers, Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and food bank officials are hoping community organizations such as Lions and Rotary clubs may be interested in “adopting” a group of seniors, “to remind them that ‘Hey, your food box is ready and you can pick it up on this day at this location,’ ” Christopher said.
Miller said finding additional locations for distributing the boxes is a priority.
“We’re talking about a very proud population, where they don’t necessarily want to stand in line and ask for a box,” she said. “It’s also a population that is quick to say, ‘Oh I don’t need it, give it to someone else.’ ”
For seniors living on a fixed income, however, the boxes — filled with staples like pasta, juice, canned vegetables, cheese, peanut butter and cereal — can help prevent difficult financial decisions, Miller said.
“Some of the success stories we’ve seen over the years are seniors who’ve told us they couldn’t afford their medication without the CSFP boxes,” she said. “They would have had to choose between having enough food and taking the proper amount of medicine.”
Non-food-pantry locations might encourage more seniors to participate in the program, Miller said.
“Somewhere like a VFW or an Elks club, places where seniors might be more comfortable going to get that box,” she said.
More distribution locations overall never hurts, Christopher said.
“As we want to expand the seniors we serve, we want to make sure we have the infrastructure to handle it,” she said.
Income eligibility for the program is $1,354 per month for one senior, and $1,832 per month for a home with two seniors.
For more on the CSFP program, see HungerFreePA.org.