“By the third week of the month, we’re wiped out. The box gets us to the next payday.”
Many seniors struggle with food insecurity due to a number of factors including fixed income and limited mobility. In addition, seniors are more susceptible to health issues and need nutritious food to stay well and thrive.
Through our network of member agencies, more than 20% of the people served by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank are over the age of 60. To meet some of the special needs of this population, the Food Bank participates in the federal government’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which provides seniors with a box of healthy food every month.
For Helen, who lives in an apartment building in Upper South Providence, the CSFP box is a major resource. “It helps a lot,” she says. She can often stretch the food in the box so it lasts for two weeks. That’s good, because Helen lives on her disability insurance, and she can only afford about three weeks of groceries at the store. With the food from CSFP, she can make things like vegetable and chicken soups, and she really enjoys the juices that come each month.
Helen’s half-sister Latifah lives in the same building. They both claim Shinnecock Indian heritage, a nation on Long Island with many connections to Providence. When Latifah moved to the building, Helen told her about the box, and she quickly applied. She finds that it “helps a lot, especially now that we get it on the third Tuesday of the month. By the third week of the month, we’re wiped out,” she says. “The box gets us to the next payday.” She says if she didn’t have the box, she’d have to borrow from a relative to make ends meet.
Every month at the Food Bank, boxes are packed by volunteers for distribution. Currently, more than 1,400 Rhode Island seniors are enrolled in the federal program. Boxes are distributed through member agencies of the Food Bank, either pantries or senior high rises. Many of the recipients rely on these boxes to supplement their shopping, helping them make it through the month with enough food to eat.
When the boxes are delivered, Food Bank staff are there with nutrition education materials and information on other resources and services available to seniors. Often, they’ll even present a cooking demonstration, using food available in the CSFP boxes.