At the Food Bank, 20% of the clients served are seniors. It’s critical that they receive the support they need to acquire healthy, nutritious food at our member agencies.
That’s why Senior Services Coordinator Lindsay Sgambato plays such an important role.
In 2015, thanks to the advocacy of U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Rhode Island became eligible to participate in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). The program is administered by the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs, who contracts with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to run the program. This includes enrolling participants, ordering and packing food into boxes and distributing the boxes to distribution sites.
At the Food Bank, Lindsay coordinates the enrollment of participants and the distribution of boxes of commodity food to people who are at least 60 years old and have a monthly income that is at or below 130% of the federal poverty income guidelines.
Every month, boxes are packed from federal commodities available to the program. While the contents of the box may vary from month to month, they may contain non-perishable food like dry cereal, canned chicken, shelf-stable milk, peanut butter or beans, pasta or rice, and cans of fruit and vegetables. Boxes may also come with a two-pound package of cheese that requires refrigeration. Each month food is ordered from the USDA warehouse and received by the Food Bank’s operations staff. The food is packed by staff and volunteers, and the boxes are delivered by the Food Bank’s transportation team to each of the distribution sites.
Since seniors are often faced with health issues, the Food Bank ensures that each box meets the federal nutritional standards for seniors aged 60 and older to thrive. The contents are nutritious and easy for seniors to use to make a meal. Food Bank staff regularly survey participants to find ways to improve the items selected for the senior boxes.
Lindsay manages the day-to-day functioning of the program. That includes recruiting participants, processing applications, and providing assistance to the sites that distribute the boxes. That last part means training site staff on how to operate the program within federal regulations, troubleshooting box delivery and distribution issues, and helping sites collect and submit participant applications to the Food Bank for review.
As a federal program, everything must follow strict guidelines, and the Food Bank is audited by the R.I. Division of Elderly Affairs to ensure that the program is being run properly.
Currently, the Food Bank is authorized to distribute 1,542 boxes a month, and there is a waiting list available for those who meet the program’s requirements if all allocated caseload slots are filled. The Food Bank is working to expand the program to sites where seniors live or gather such as senior housing high rises and senior centers. Sites like these mean residents can easily pick up their boxes without having to arrange transportation to a site and back, and don’t have to deal with the difficulty of carrying or moving the boxes long distances.
With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in public health from Northeastern University, Lindsay worked in a number of social service positions before joining the Food Bank.
She’s glad to be in a job that provides an important service. “I think that all the work that’s being done here is being done for the good of other people. It’s refreshing, it feels good to come in and be a part of that.”