Food warehouse trying to help more people
By QUINN SCHWARTZ Herald Digital Editor
GALLERY: Food warehouse trying to help more people
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CORY BYKNISH | Herald The contents of a senior food box includes, canned fruit, canned meat, two types of juice, peanut butter, cereal, vegetables, pasta and a nutritional information sheet.
CORY BYKNISH | Herald
CORY BYKNISH | Herald Boxes filled with food sit on the pallets at the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County which was packed by volunteers for the senior food box program. Twenty one volunteers packed over 380 boxes weighing thirty pounds each which included canned meat, peanut butter, juice, pasta, powered milk and nutritional information which will be delivered or picked monthly.
CORY BYKNISH | Herald Sheila Christopher, Hunger-Free PA executive director visits the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County Wednesday morning to showcase the supplemental food program.
SHARON – Hunger Free Pennsylvania Executive Director Sheila Christopher has come to expect excellence when she makes her twice-a-year stops at the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.
Christopher and Assistant Director Thomas Dubs concluded their statewide trip Wednesday at the Community Food Warehouse to check that food banks throughout Pennsylvania fulfill federal requirements through the Commodity Supplemental Feeding Program, also known as the Senior Food Box Program.
Christopher said she has visited the Sharpsville Avenue food bank many times during her 35-year career as an hunger prevention official, and the Community Food Warehouse once again delivered on expectations.
“That’s what they do,” she said. “It’s a great group that’s very committed to what they need to do to serve people.”
The Senior Food Box Program provides monthly food boxes to people aged 60 years or older, with income at or below 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines. It serves more than 380 seniors in Mercer County and more than 36,000 statewide.
But the purpose of Christopher and Dubs’ trip was about more than just federal regulation compliance. With the program’s roughly 380 participants accounting for just 10 percent of the qualified population, Christopher said the main reason for the visit was to help spread the word.
“The program is funded in the budget every year,” she said. “The problem is finding the seniors.”
Another problem Christopher has run into are senior citizens too proud to ask for help.
“It’s our greatest generation, so they grew up through the Depression and through wars and they know how to make ends meet,” she said. “But this is for them. We’re not going to give it to children or young people. It is for them.”
To help spread awareness, Christopher said she plans to make a push with pharmacies and doctor’s offices to provide their senior patients with information about the program. She also hopes to start a “senior express,” similar to the Meals on Wheels program, to help with the housebound senior population.
But even when the senior express starts rolling, volunteer participation is paramount.
“We are always looking for volunteers who can service certain areas of Mercer County or throw some boxes in their car once a month and get it to some seniors,” Christopher said.
Terry Evans, Commodity Supplemental Feeding Program coordinator at the Community Food Warehouse, said she and a group of dedicated volunteers spent all day Tuesday packing between 380 to 390 30-pound boxes of food for the upcoming month.
Each box is filled with items like pasta, juice, shelf-stable milk and canned goods, as well as a pamphlet with recipes and tips for use. But the most popular item, Evans said, is the two-pound block of government cheese.
“A lot of people call it the ‘cheese program,’” Evans said. “They all love it.”
Once the boxes are packed, seniors are free to pick up their monthly supply at the warehouse or have the boxes delivered.
“You can tell they really appreciate it,” Evans said.
TO VOLUNTEER or sign up for the Senior Food Box Program, call the the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County at 724-981-0353.