Reaching seniors with nutritious food

Nello has lived in Halifax County his entire life – all 84 years. He enjoys life in Enfield, where he fishes, grows tomatoes in the summer, and cooks for his wife Lossie. But like nearly 14% of NC seniors, Nello and Lossie struggle to pay bills and buy the groceries they need.

Reaching seniors with nutritious food

“As long as we were working we didn’t worry about food,” said Nello. But that changed when he retired more than 20 years ago. Lossie is in a wheel chair and on disability, but it’s not enough to make ends meet. “We can’t pay off all the bills. My gas bill is sky high. In the winter, I know we won’t catch up then. No way, because we have to have heat and it has been a cold winter.”

Fortunately for Nello and Lossie, Food Bank CENC administers a special food program just for seniors in Halifax County: the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). CSFP is a USDA program that provides a monthly package of food designed to supplement the nutritional needs of low-income senior citizens. Each box includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein, and dairy, packed with care by Food Bank volunteers.

CSFP photo by Craig HewettPhoto by Craig Hewett

“Seniors are a quickly growing group of people in need who are too often overlooked. They have spent their lives working for us, and yet are often placed on an extremely limited fixed income from which they somehow have to make ends meet. Programs like CSFP help to ease just a little of the extremely tight circumstances they find themselves in,” said Christi Mallasch, Food Bank CENC’s Manager of Commodity Programs and Program Inventory.

Once a month Nello and Lossie make a special trip to Inborden School in Enfield to pick up their box, along with hundreds of other Halifax County seniors.

“I appreciate the boxes and I enjoy the food,” said Nello. “The food helps me a whole lot. My favorite thing in the box is the mixed vegetables and the fruit, the string beans, the peaches. We make hot soup and crackers.”

The CSFP boxes also help Lossie manage her diabetes.

“She can eat all the fruit,” said Nello. “The doctor told us to try and eat breakfast. There’s some stuff that you can have for breakfast in the boxes. We like the milk. We can use that milk in cornflakes, for a quick breakfast.”

All in all, Food Bank CENC packs and distributes over 4,500 CSFP boxes to seniors like Nello every month. That’s twice the number of boxes we were distributing a year ago – but sadly it’s still not enough. More than 48,000 individuals over 65 are living in poverty just within our 34-county service area.

We know that reaching these seniors with nutritious, dependable sources of food leads to amazing outcomes for families and communities. Seniors who are healthy and active can help build the foundations of their families and communities, pass on traditions, and share history with younger generations.

May is Older Americans Month, making it the perfect time to recognize that seniors are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity because they have unique nutritional needs related to aging or medical conditions, yet often have limited, fixed, or no income. Your donations make it possible for Food Bank CENC to provide seniors with the food that they need and deserve to have, without making tough choices.