Senior Food Boxes help increase food security among older adults

Senior Food Boxes help increase food security among older adults

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, provides boxes of nutritious food to low-income seniors

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer/Intake Support

Eating a healthy, well balanced diet is something we all strive to do, especially as we get older and make adjustments to our needs. With aging comes dietary changes, and purchasing diet-specific foods can create a financial burden on seniors already living within a fixed income.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), also known as the Senior Food Box Program, is a United States Department of Agriculture program designed to supplement the health of low-income older adults.

CSFP provides a monthly box of a variety of food, including canned fruits and vegetables, shelf stable milk, canned protein, peanut butter, and cheese. Seniors enrolled in this program receive one box per month free of charge. The USDA selects and purchases the food used in this program, which The Foodbank administers with the oversight of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Nationwide, the CSFP program serves about 619,000 older adults annually. According to Feeding America, each box costs the USDA $27 and results in a product with an average retail value of $50. The nutritious food available in the box helps prevent health consequences of food insecurity, including hospital stays and nursing home placements.

One 2019 study of CSFP clients in Rhode Island found that 84.9% of those surveyed were found to be food insecure prior to enrolling in the program. After enrolling, overall rates of food insecurity dropped to 64.1%.

The CSFP program is especially important to protect the health of older adults. According to the Food Research Action Center, older adults who experience food insecurity are 19% more likely to have high blood pressure, 57% more likely to have congestive heart failure, 65% more likely to be diabetic, and 66% more likely to have experienced a heart attack.

The Foodbank currently distributes CSFP boxes at 21 different locations across Montgomery and Greene counties. These include apartment complexes, senior living communities, and the drive thru at our warehouse. These distribution sites are selected with accessibility in mind. Placing food directly into cars or distributing directly in living communities makes transporting food much easier.

Last year, The Foodbank distributed over 2.3 million pounds of CSFP food. Over 1,000 seniors were enrolled in the program.

Because CSFP is administered through the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, it is the only Foodbank program that has an application process. To enroll in the program, you must be 60 years of age or older and living at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. To see if you qualify, check your income against the chart below:

2021 CSFP Income Guidelines

Household Size Annual Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
1 $16,744 $1,396 $322
2 $22,646  $1,888  $436
3 $28,548  $2,379 $549
4 $34,450  $2,871 $663
5 $40,352 $3,363 $776
6 $46,254 $3,855  $890 
7 $52,156 $4,347 $1,003
8 $58,058  $4,839  $1,117
For each additional member, add… 5,902 $492 $114

You may fill out an application at our office or have one mailed to you by calling Emily Riley at 937-461-0265 x54.

 


Where our food goes

Where our food goes

We distribute food through agencies and programs of all shapes and sizes

By: Emily Gallion, Grants & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, SNAP/Outreach Lead

Last fiscal year we distributed close to 18 million pounds of food. The last time we talked to you, we gave you the rundown of where we get our food from – but where in the world does 18 million pounds of food go? 

Partner Agencies

The heart of The Foodbank’s hunger relief programming is the acquisition and distribution of food to our 116 partner agencies. This is the critical difference between a food bank and a food pantry: While a pantry distributes food to individuals, a food bank’s central mission is to distribute food to other organizations. Without the hard work of our agencies, we could not reach the 935,404 individuals we served last fiscal year.

Partner agencies fall into five categories: pantries, meal sites, congregate programs, emergency shelters, and Kids Cafe meal sites.

Food pantries: Also known as grocery programs, food pantries make up the majority of our partner agencies. A pantry is any program that distributes groceries for clients to prepare at home. Last year, we provided food for 96 such organizations. Our pantries vary widely in size and type, from small church pantries to larger nonprofits that serve thousands each month.

Hot meal sites, congregate programs, and emergency shelters: Sometimes referred to as soup kitchens, hot meal sites include any organization that provides free meals to anyone who needs it. Some emergency shelters, which include domestic violence shelters and temporary housing for people in crisis, also receive food from us. Last fiscal year, we served 22 hot meal sites and shelters.

Kids Cafe meal sites: The Foodbank operates a Kids Cafe program that is administered by a variety of community partners, such as after school programs. The Kids Cafe program serves meals to children in the community. Kids Cafe is a registered trademark of Feeding America.

Drive-Thru

The Foodbank operates a Drive Thru Food Pantry to meet the additional needs of our local community. The Drive Thru was originally conceptualized as a way to distribute senior boxes. It has since grown into a service for the greater community.

Visitors to our Drive Thru are entered into our client management system, PantryTrak. Our data, which includes attendance at our direct service programs and partner agencies, is reported on a monthly basis to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Fluctuations in attendance at our programs can act as a barometer to identify changes in regional food insecurity.

To receive food from the Drive Thru, you must bring a drivers license and have an income at or below 200% (or 230% during the COVID-19 pandemic) of the federal poverty limit.

Food distributed at our Drive Thru is intended to supplement any food received at our partner agencies and through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As such, clients may not receive a complete set of groceries, but will receive a variety of food such as fresh produce, frozen meat, and bakery items.

As of December 2020, The Drive Thru is open Monday thru Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm. Hours are subject to change; check this page for more up to date information.

The Foodbank Mobile Farmers Markets

Every month, The Foodbank’s Mobile Farmers Markets deliver fresh food and produce to 15 locations at high risk for food insecurity. These locations are in areas of high poverty that do not have access to a local food pantry. Many of our clients served by the Mobile Farmer’s Markets are seniors who are homebound.

Our Mobile program also operates on a larger scale when we host Mass Distributions throughout the year. Typically we host three a year: one in Montgomery county, one in Greene county, and one in Preble county. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an increased need for food across the board, we hosted seven mass distributions this year. Stay tuned to our social media pages for our 2021 Mass Distribution schedule. 

Last year, we distributed 1.8 million pounds of food through our Mobile Farmers Market programs.

To view our mobile schedule, visit http://thefoodbankdayton.org/agencies/needfood/.

Senior Boxes

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, better known as the Senior Box Program, is a federally funded program that provides seniors aged 60 and over a monthly box of food items catered to their dietary needs.

The Foodbank distributes just over 1,000 of these boxes each month at 16 different locations, including our on site drive thru.

For a deep dive on senior hunger, check out our blog post. Senior box qualifications and the application can be found here or by calling 937-461-0265 ext. 17.

Good to Go Backpacks

These meal packs are given to food insecure children who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches during the week, but are at risk of going hungry on weekends.

Students who are enrolled in this program receive a pack of healthy, kid friendly food that is discreetly placed in their backpacks every Friday. School personnel select students to participate based on signs of hunger, such as rushing lunch lines, hoarding food, and talking about not having food at home. 

Each backpack also contains a “love note” with an uplifting personal message and information regarding our emergency food line. This phone line is operated 24 hrs a day for families in need of immediate assistance. Our staff member will refer the caller to a partner agency or Foodbank program near them.

Last year, we had 1,520 students in 30 schools who participated in the program.

Rx Boxes

The Foodbank, in partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital, created a Food Script Program that allows physicians and staff to write food prescriptions for hospital patient families who have been identified as food insecure. 

The food insecurity screenings are conducted by hospital community health workers, social workers, nurses, and staff. The primary target audience for this project is families with children who may be food insecure but are not already receiving food assistance.

Last year, these Rx Boxes were distributed to 522 households.

If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, check out our overview of resources here. We also frequently post resources and up-to-date food distribution information on our Facebook page.


For older adults, hunger hides in plain sight

For older adults, hunger hides in plain sight

Poverty, mobility challenges, and health expenses contribute to food insecurity among seniors. Here’s how federal programs and The Foodbank help out.

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager and Emily Gallion, Grants & Advocacy Manager

Many of us already know that older adults are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. But the pandemic isn’t the only health crisis impacting older adults.

While Americans may not think of hunger as an issue that affects our seniors, they face higher rates of food insecurity than the general population. In Ohio, over one in ten seniors struggle with food insecurity.

This is of particular concern in the era of COVID-19. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the availability and affordability of food can impact nearly every aspect of an individual’s health. The pandemic has disrupted senior’s food sources by forcing the closure of community centers and other programs older low-income adults use to access food.

With 28 percent of Americans living without any savings at all, any economic disruption or short-term emergency can make it difficult for individuals — including seniors, who often live on fixed-incomes — to obtain enough food to eat.

With aging comes dietary changes that require a higher intake of nutrients such as protein and calcium. Unfortunately, one in two seniors are at risk for malnutrition related to difficulty chewing and swallowing, losses or changes in appetite, and physical or mental health challenges.

Eating nutrient specific foods creates a financial burden on senior households who are already living with income constraints. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, also known as the senior box program, was created by the USDA to meet the specific dietary needs of the senior population.

Congress appropriated $222.891 million for CSFP in fiscal year 2019 in order to provide this box at no cost to participants. The program is available in all 50 states to individuals living at or below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty line.

The Foodbank, Inc. distributes 1,020 boxes to seniors in Montgomery and Greene counties at 18 different distribution sites. To enroll in the senior box program, prospective recipients must fill out an application and meet the income requirements, both of which can be found on our website.

The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on families across the world, so it was no surprise to us when applications for the CSFP program came pouring in. Food banks have a limited caseload of seniors they are able to serve through this program each month. We reached our capacity for this program on March 12, 2020.

Once the program reaches capacity, we are still able to take applications and place them on a waitlist. As spots open up, they are filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. At the time of writing this post, there are still 95 people on the CSFP waitlist.

People who are waitlisted or declined from the program are still eligible to receive food through other Foodbank programs, however. We regularly refer individuals to their local pantry, Mobile Farmers Market, or our Drive Thru Food Pantry when they are not yet able to or not eligible to receive a CSFP box. We also bring boxes of non-federal food to our senior food box distributions so nobody goes home without something to eat.

Another federal program that benefits seniors is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. SNAP is available to all adults who meet income guidelines of 130 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $12,760 annually for a household of one.

SNAP is an especially valuable tool in the fight against food insecurity because it allows recipients to have purchasing power. A senior who has specific dietary restrictions is able to purchase the food they need directly at the store. This approach has economic benefits as well: every $1 provided through SNAP generates $1.50-$1.80 in economic activity, according to 2019 calculations from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (2018 data).

However, there are particular challenges to using SNAP to combat hunger among our seniors. Participation in this program for adults over the age of 60 is particularly low. To apply for SNAP, potential recipients must use a phone or computer, print off and mail an application, or be able to find application assistance with a local agency.

Due in part to these obstacles, it is estimated that only 2 in 5 eligible seniors participate in the program, according to the National Council on Aging.

SNAP utilization rates are much lower for older adults in Ohio.

In addition to the barriers to apply, seniors who receive SNAP benefits must visit the grocery store to use them. This presents a risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable seniors, and can also be difficult for older adults who do not have transportation or who are living with a disability. About one in three food insecure seniors are disabled.

While all individuals who are food insecure face an increased risk of certain health outcomes, seniors face a unique situation. According to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), older adults living with food insecurity experience increased rates of a myriad of health problems, including asthma, congestive heart failure, hypertension, malnutrition, depression, and obesity resulting from consuming high-calorie/low nutrient food.

Older adults, who often live on fixed incomes and struggle with high medical costs, also utilize a number of dangerous coping mechanisms to stretch their budget, including forgoing necessary medications and preventative medical treatment, leading to higher medical costs and worse health in the long term.

Data from FRAC shows that older adults who are food insecure are much more likely to stretch their household budget by rationing or discontinuing prescribed medications.

Are you or somebody you know in need of assistance? The following resources may help:

  • For more information about our CSFP Program, contact Katie Ly, Programs Manager, at KLy@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x33, or Yiselle Heredia, Data Entry/CSFP Specialist at YHeredia@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x19
  • The Foodbank holds Mobile Farmers Markets in many locations in the community. Visit our website to view our schedule.
  • Anyone in need of food assistance may also visit our weekly onsite drive thru. Hours can be found on our website as well as our social media channels
  • For SNAP application assistance, contact Colette Looney, SNAP Coordinator, at CLooney@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x37