In a rare role reversal, the Utah Food Bank is actively seeking out low-income seniors to provide food for.
By nature, the agency helps an ever-growing number of people who seek out food assistance because they're in need. But a recent infusion of food from the federal government means the current food box delivery services for low-income seniors will expand beyond the Wasatch Front into Davis, Tooele and Weber counties.
Jim Pugh, CEO of the Utah Food Bank, said Utah is one of seven states that were added this year to the national Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Congress created the program to alleviate hunger by distributing food produced through federal farm support programs.
During the next six months, the Food Bank hopes to double the number of senior food boxes being distributed from 2,600 to 5,300 per month. "Most of the food we distribute now is to people in Salt Lake County, so the biggest increase we'll see will be expanding our geographic outreach" to surrounding counties, Pugh said.
As designed by the federal government, the monthly food packages are assembled to provide protein, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. Each food package supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture costs $15, but the retail value is approximately $50, according to the program guidelines.
Each box contains approximately a 10-day supply of non-perishable food, along with milk and produce when available.
While the agency has some staff members who are trying to spread the word among seniors in outlying counties, "it's always a challenge to educate them," not only about what is available, but about what the guidelines are and how they can sign up, he said.
To be eligible for food box delivery, individuals must be age 60 or older (younger if disabled), and have a monthly income of no more than $1,354 per month, or $1,821 per month for a two-person household. They also must be unable to easily access food and lack access to a vehicle or an able-bodied person living in the home.
For more information or to apply for the food box program, call 801-978-2452 and ask to speak with an outreach specialist.
"The box is definitely meant to be supplemental. It's by no means enough for someone to live on for a month. But it helps stretch a limited budget to insure seniors are getting enough food," Pugh said.
A national survey of seniors by the CSFP found that more than 50 percent said they ran out of food during the month, and more than 60 percent were using money for medical bills over food.
With the new food commodities available for fiscal year 2010, the Food Bank has added some 500 seniors to its monthly food box delivery list, but 2,200 slots are still available.
Once seniors enroll in the food box delivery program, they tend to stay with it unless their living circumstances change as they move in with children or another care facility, Pugh said. "We do a re-verification process with them one a year just to see where they are."
With a greater focus on food distribution, the Food Bank will begin phasing our its home repair services for those same seniors. While outreach specialists will "continue to assess and care for critical home repair needs," the program "will not actively seek home repair referrals," Pugh said. Help with those services can be found by calling the 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line, which can put seniors in touch with other local organizations.