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East Texas Food Bank starts seniors program

By Hannah DeClerk
Jan. 6, 2012 at 10 p.m.

In East Texas, one in seven senior citizens are at risk for hunger, many of them not knowing where there next meal is coming from, according to a study conducted by the East Texas Food Bank.

In order to supply those over 60 who cannot afford a warm meal, The East Texas Food Bank is signing up senior citizens for a new Senior Box Program.

"At the end of the month, the Social Security check runs low, and many elderly may be having to make difficult choices between paying electric bills, medications or food," East Texas Food Bank Communications Director Karolyn Davis said. "This program is designed to help alleviate those stresses from those less fortunate."

According to Ms. Davis, the Senior Box Program is a USDA sponsored food program designed to improve the health and nutrition of senior citizens.

Those who qualify for the program will receive a free box of nutrition food each month.

"This is our first time to have our senior box program, and it is a new program that we are working to make sure seniors have nutritious food they need each month," she said.

Typically, the food bank will supply food for about 200 not for profit organizations to distribute.

For the senior box program, however, The East Texas Food Bank will be providing the direct service for this particular program, explained Ms. Davis.

"Many elderly do not go to food pantries and soup kitchens, so the food pantry has decided to go into areas we know there is a need," she said.

Participants must be 60 years of age or older and meet gross income requirements.

Proof of age and income is required. Those that are already enrolled in SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), Medicaid or SSI will automatically qualify, pending proof of enrollment.

Representatives from the East Texas Food Bank will be handing out boxes at 10 a.m. Tuesday, January 10 at Mt. Zion Spiritual Church, 2200 Pemberton, in Marshall.

"We will have people from the food bank signing up those who are 60 years or older and need income guidelines," she said. "At this time, Marshall is the distribution site for Harrison County and we hope to serve around 150 seniors in this area. The total goal for this new program is to serve nearly 2,000 seniors."

The boxes of food will consist of shelf safe food items for senior citizens that include cereal, rice, beans, canned vegetables, juice, and cheese.

"Through this program, we have certain standards and a special quantity mix in each box, and all healthy, nutritious USDA standards of food," she added.

The funding for the program stems from a grant the food bank applied for that helped the organization launch the program.

Ms. Davis explained the East Texas Food Bank replicated the idea of a senior box from other food banks after hearing several reports of the program's success.

"We felt it was crucial to make sure seniors get proper nutritious and food they need in our area," she said.

The East Texas Food Bank distributed over 19.5 million pounds of food each year to over 200 partner agencies in 26 East Texas counties.

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