PENNSYLVANIA — According to a study done by Feeding America, 1 in 6 older adults are food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Senior citizens are especially susceptible to food insecurity because they often have fixed incomes that don’t increase with inflation. They may also have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals. Pennsylvania’s Senior Food Box Program is designed to help eligible seniors get the nutritious food they need. The program provides a box of non-perishable food items each month, and recipients can choose to pick up their boxes at participating locations or have them delivered to their homes.
At a press conference yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf highlighted his Administration’s efforts to improve accessibility and awareness for Pennsylvania’s Senior Food Box Program, which now serves 20% more seniors than it was this time last year. With continued outreach and awareness, the program has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of Pennsylvania’s senior citizens. The underutilized program could help more than 300,000 residents get food. But as of May 2021, only 28 thousand were taking advantage and this is a concern because it means there may be fewer nutrients reaching vulnerable populations in the state.
“Fighting hunger has been a top priority for Frances and me from day one,” said Gov. Wolf. “I’m incredibly proud of the work that the departments of Agriculture and Aging have done to revitalize this program that ensures our older Pennsylvanians don’t have to choose between paying for utilities or putting food on the table.”
Noting that seniors often face barriers to access for food assistance programs because of issues such as transportation, mobility, or technology, the Department of Agriculture, which administers the program in partnership with Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, set to work to improve awareness and accessibility for the program.
“One hungry older Pennsylvanian is one too many. Through valued partnerships, we’re working towards an ultimate goal of eliminating hunger,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “And I’m proud to say, we’re making progress for our seniors. The Senior Food Box Program is now more accessible thanks to a rebranding and new partnerships. I hope that with easier access to reliable food on the table, we’re taking stress off the table.”
Since May 2021, the Department of Agriculture has:
- Renamed the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to the Senior Food Box Program to better relate to its beneficiaries.
- Removed income verification requirements and transitioned to a self-declaration of eligibility.
- Hosted a listening session with First Lady Frances Wolf to hear first-hand experiences and recommendations for program improvements from those already receiving the box.
- Partnered with DoorDash to offer seniors the opportunity to have their monthly food box delivered to their door for free. DoorDash delivery is now available in 15 counties including Bucks, Columbia, Dauphin, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Montgomery, Montour, Philadelphia, Washington, Westmoreland and York.
- Partnered with the Department of Aging and the PACE Prescription Assistance Program call center to proactively contact and enroll eligible seniors in the program. To date, PACE has processed more than 20,000 applications.
“Access to nutritional foods for older adults is critical to help support their health, well-being and independence. The Department of Aging’s partnership with the Department of Agriculture is utilizing the PACE Program’s call center operation and a facilitated application process that make it easy for seniors who are enrolled in PACE to take advantage of other programs for which they may also be eligible, like the Senior Food Box,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “People call PACE because they know they get to talk with someone who cares and who will help them. By working together with our state and community partners, we are helping more older adults overcome challenges with food insecurity and healthy eating.”
Since efforts began to reinvigorate the Senior Food Box Program in May 2021, distribution has increased by more than 20%.
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