Federal Anti-Hunger Program Turns 50
Hunger-Free PA Launches New Website
By Sheila Christopher, Executive Director, Hunger-Free Pennsylvania
Two milestones are happening right now. The federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) turns 50 this year as Hunger-Free Pennsylvania marks its 35 year this month.
As administrator for CSFP in the commonwealth, we are launching a new website with a renewed focus on this important program.
CSFP is one of those programs few people know about unless they need it. And many who utilize it don’t even really understand its full scope. But everyone should appreciate its value.
Working in tandem with states, CSFP has been a centerpiece of efforts to improve the health of low-income elderly persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious food packages.
In Pennsylvania, 36,200 utilize CSFP and more than 3,800 seniors are on the waiting list at any given time, demonstrating just how great the need truly is.
I have been engaged with anti-hunger efforts for 35 years. The work I have been able to do with CSFP has been among the most rewarding, if not the most challenging because you see the need among our seniors each and every day.
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania administers CSFP in the commonwealth, making us the single largest provider of meals to older Pennsylvanians.
We work in partnership with more than 1,200 agencies to deliver 36,200 food packages every month to needy seniors across the state. (More than 370,000 Pennsylvania seniors are actually eligible for CSFP benefits.) Nationwide, CSFP food packages reach more than 725,000 low-income people each month.
CSFP leverages government buying power to provide life-sustaining meal deliveries to older Pennsylvanians --- 100 percent of the participants are low-income seniors, with incomes of less than 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, which is just over $1,300 monthly for a senior citizen living alone.
Half of the people Hunger-Free Pennsylvania serves have a monthly income of less than $800.
CSFP isn’t just about giving seniors a plate of food. It’s about keeping them vibrant and healthy, and about keeping our communities strong.
Food insecurity among seniors contributes to malnutrition, which exacerbates disease, increases disability, decreases resistance to infection and extends hospital stays.
Malnutrition increases care-giving demands and inflates health-care expenditures associated with premature or extended hospital or nursing home stays.
It’s never easy to mark the anniversary of an anti-hunger program. All of us who devote ourselves to this cause would love to see these programs disappear, meaning hunger isn’t an epidemic and no one in America is food insecure anymore.
But that’s simply not the case.
As long as there is a need, then options like Commodity Supplemental Food Program remain viable and important, and they deserve our support. More help is always needed. But we should be proud of the foundation CSFP has provided over the years, and for what it continues to do.
Please check out our new website to learn more about this program and others administered by Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.