Food Bank of the Rockies provides monthly food boxes to low-income Summit seniors | SummitDaily.com

Food Bank of the Rockies provides monthly food boxes to low-income Summit seniors

Jessica Smith
jsmith@summitdaily.com
Volunteers with Food Bank of the Rockies pack boxes in the organization's 106,000 square-foot facility in Denver. Some of those boxes are delivered to Summit County as part of the Commodities Supplemental Food Program, a federal program designed to bring food assistance to seniors at or below the 130 percent Federal Poverty Level.
Food Bank of the Rockies / Special to the Daily |

Commodities Supplemental Food Program

For seniors 60 and over

Income Guidelines:

1 Household Member: $1,276

2 Household Members: $1,726

3 Household Members: $2,177

4 Household Members: $2,628

5 Household Members: $3,078

6 Household Members: $3,529

7 Household Members: $3,980

8 Household Members: $4,430

For each additional household member add $451

For more information, contact Valerie Greenhagen at the Summit County Community and Senior Center at (970) 668-2941 or visit Food Bank of the Rockies online at www.FoodBankRockies.org

Thousands of pounds of food sit in the 106,000-square-foot Food Bank of the Rockies facility in Denver. Every day the food is packed into boxes by volunteers and shipped off to locations within Colorado and Wyoming. The food is utilized by various programs, from the Food Bank of the Rockies’ mobile pantry program to local food banks.

Now, some of those boxes are arriving in Summit County with the express purpose of relieving senior citizens in need. The Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) began locally in November of 2014. Organizers are working to spread awareness of the program and reach out to eligible seniors.

MONTHLY SOURCE OF FOOD

The CSFP is a government program funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eligibility requires participants to be over the age of 60 and have an income at or under 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Each month, the Community and Senior Center in Frisco receives a box for each of its participants signed up for the CSFP. Within the box are non-perishable food items such as juice, cereal, beans, rice, pasta, canned meat, dried fruit, powdered milk and peanut butter.

The box is not supposed to stand in for an entire balanced meal, or be the only source of food for the entire month, said Janie Gianotsos, director of marketing and community relations with Food Bank of the Rockies. Lacking fresh food items such as fruits, vegetables and other produce, the boxes are meant to supplement participants’ pantries, not replace them entirely.

Gianotsos said that Food Bank of the Rockies sends out approximately 9,000 CSFP boxes per month to areas throughout Colorado.

“It’s a great opportunity for seniors to supplement their nutritional needs,” she said.

REACHING SUMMIT’S SENIORS

According to the latest county needs assessment, there are an estimated 260 seniors in Summit County whose financials fall within the requirements of the CSFP, said Gianotsos. However, only five individuals are currently signed up for the program.

Valerie Greenhagen, senior services program manager at the Community and Senior Center, said that the center has received more inquiries regarding the program, but those people didn’t quite meet the strict federal requirements. In those cases, while they can’t take advantage of CSFP specifically, Greenhagen and her colleagues do their best to point them toward other resources.

The current goal, said Gianotsos, is to expand the CSFP program to around 50 boxes per month, establishing the program as a consistent resource within the community. One of the biggest challenges facing that goal is awareness.

“I think (it’s) getting the word out there for folks so they know that the program is available and that they understand what the guidelines are,” said Greenhagen.

That can be difficult with a population that isn’t always as interactive in the community as other age groups.

“A lot of seniors up here are isolated too, so they’re not out in the community or at the Community and Senior Center,” said Kirstie Taylor. A licensed clinical social worker, Taylor is one of the center’s care navigators. Her job is to connect seniors to helpful resources — a service provided for free thanks to various grants.

A senior who has difficulty obtaining transportation, or has a hard time leaving the house due to medical conditions, has a harder time connecting with the center and its resources, she said. Barriers to owning and using technology may also be keeping seniors from programs that might benefit them.

To combat this, Taylor often makes home visits for her charity navigator work, and part of that has included bringing along a CSFP box to a qualified client.

“It’s a lot of times medical complications that make it difficult for (seniors) to remain up here,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of second homeowners that live up here, and financially they’re doing pretty well, but there certainly is a senior population that is trying to make ends meet with Section 8 and Social Security and food stamps, and piecing together everything they can to stay up here.”

LENDING A HAND

As people like Taylor and Greenhagen work to spread the word to more people, there are ways for the general public to help out as well. Food donations are accepted, though the most helpful thing someone can do is donate money, Gianotsos said.

“We can take every dollar and we can turn that into four meals, or five pounds of food,” she said. “Rather than have people go shopping for us, if they could take that $5 or $10 and make a donation, it goes so much farther.”

This is because Food Bank of the Rockies purchases its food at lower-than-public prices through various stores, wholesalers, manufacturers and farmers.

The main focus of those at the Community and Senior Center is to help out the local population however they can.

“I think this is a unique place because it is expensive to live here, and when you factor in the weather and the altitude challenges and all that kind of thing, it’s definitely not an easy place for seniors to live,” said Greenhagen. “We really try to provide as much support for our seniors as possible.”

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the program and its eligibility requirements should contact Greenhagen. The sign-up process is quick and the box delivery is no-hassle.

“It’s a low contact program. It’s really just: you sign up and get your food,” she said. “I think it’s a nice way for people to be able to get access to a resource in a really low-maintenance sort of way.”

Taylor said she’s looking forward to more people learning about and taking advantage of the CSFP program.

“Every little bit helps and I’m sure that there are many more people than who we’ve come into contact with in terms of being eligible for the program but not knowing that it exists,” she said. “I’m hoping it will grow.”


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