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Food help options available for seniors

Staff writer

Seniors who need help putting food on their tables have more options than they did in the past.

Gayla Ratzlaff, county department on aging director, said since March government commodities have arrived monthly instead of every other month. The change is not related to the pandemic.

Additionally, the boxes of commodities contain more items.

“More items started about a year ago,” she said. “We used to get about nine items and now we are getting like 14.”

It is hoped monthly deliveries could last into next year.

“What they told me is that this would continue through the end of the year,” she said. “Then they said hopefully into the new year.”

The Marion senior center distributes 60 boxes of commodities. Other towns in the county distribute food aid based on community size and need.

Anyone in the public can qualify if they meet income guidelines.

The guidelines are $1,583 for a family of one; $1,868 for a family of two; $2,353 for a family of three; and $2,839 for a family of four. Income limits increase with the number of family members, and families of five or more get two boxes of food.

The boxes contain canned vegetables, fruit, and meat. Lately the boxes have included bags of apples, oranges, and grapes.

“We’ve been getting frozen chicken and ham, canned beef stew, those kinds of things,” she said.

Distribution is first come, first served, Ratzlaff said.

“It’s whoever comes first,” she said. “We don’t hold boxes for anybody.”

Commodities arrive the third Wednesday of the month. Most communities distribute them on Wednesday, Florence on Thursday, and Hillsboro on Saturday.

Cathy Henderson, manager of Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank, said the food bank gets senior boxes from Kansas Food Bank in Wichita.

“You have to be 60, and it is income-based,” Henderson said.

Income limits are the same as for commodities, Henderson said.

Senior boxes come already packaged and sealed so volunteers don’t have to pack them.

Senior boxes sometimes come a week later than commodities.

“Ours are going to come in on the 26th this month,” Henderson said.

Participants enrolled in the program are notified by letter when the boxes will arrive, and typically 20 boxes are sent.

Henderson said people who qualify are eligible for both programs.

Often somebody will pick their boxes up for them, but on occasion the food bank makes arrangements for people who are unable to pick them up.

Unlike the quantity of food provided through the commodities program, the senior boxes have not increased, she said.

Seniors like drive-through pickup started by the food bank in response to virus concerns because they don’t have to get out of their cars, Henderson noted.

“We bring the groceries out and load them,” she said. “None of them come inside.”

As for items recipients won’t use, those can be brought back as donations, she said. Or, items can be put into collection barrels at grocery stores.

“Just this last week there were three bags in there that I know were things that came from the food bank and were donated back,” Henderson said. “We cleaned them and can use them for someone else.”

She has heard people say they miss being able to come inside and visit.

For more information on the food bank’s programs, a message can be left at (620) 382-2704.

“Leave me a message,” she said. “I promise I’ll get back.”

Last modified Aug. 20, 2020

 

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