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East Texas Food Bank Volunteers distribute food to surrounding communities

By Hannah DeClerk
Jan. 31, 2012 at 10 p.m.

<p>Caleb Gilley from the East Texas Food Bank helps load 33 pounds
of food into senior citizens' vehicles at the Waskom First United
Methodist Church on Tuesday.</p>

The East Texas Food Bank is traveling to smaller Harrison County communities to provide meals for those 60 years or older who cannot afford a warm meal.

On Tuesday, representatives from the East Texas Food Bank were stationed at Waskom First United Methodist Church to sign up senior citizens for the senior box program.

The 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.

"The East Texas Food Bank has over 200 locations in 26 counties, which includes food pantries and soup kitchens," Program Coordinator for the Senior Program Brandyn McNeal said. "We tried to target, with this program, towns that we didn't have existing pantries in, with no existing help, and Waskom was one of those towns."

Harrison County is a major target area for the program because a large portion of the population is economically disadvantaged, according to McNeal.

According to a study conducted by the East Texas Food Bank, in East Texas, one in seven senior citizens are at risk for hunger, many of them not knowing where their next meal will come from.

"We already have child hunger programs at the food bank, and pantries and soup kitchens who serve anyone who comes in," he said. "But for senior citizens, there is a huge need. The people that come through that we see are most of the time fallen through the cracks in society. They need help just like anyone else."

According to McNeal, the food bank has already signed up about 70 qualifying seniors in Marshall alone, and was looking to sign up at least 20 to 25 in Waskom.

Representatives are looking to serve nearly 2,000 seniors in East Texas, and about 150 seniors in Harrison County alone.

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

All of the food is USDA approved non perishable items, including canned vegetables, powdered milk, cereal, rice, beans, cheese and meat products, adding up to about 33 pounds worth of goods.

"Since they are dealing with a large amount of food, most of the time we will just take the box right out to their vehicle," he added.

He said the food is supposed to last through the month, and is not meant to feed them for the entire month, but instead to add on to the food items they already possess.

Representatives from the East Texas Food Bank will be handing out boxes at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at Mt. Zion Spiritual Church, 2200 Pemberton, in Marshall.

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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