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Aging in New Jersey and Food Insecurity: Commodity Supplemental Food Program Helps

It’s getting harder to for a lot of people to move and get going in the morning. Parts we’ve forgotten about are stiff and achy.  America is aging in big numbers and the impact is huge. Baby Boomers are in the thick of hitting retirement age with a projected 50% increase of 60 year olds by 2025. That’s a lot of achy joints.

But physical problems are not the only ones seniors are facing. Many are finding themselves food insecure, regardless of whether they live on their own or in a household with other non-seniors. In the US in 2014, 3 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity and 1.2 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity. New Jersey’s rate for senior food insecurity is 8.4% of the total population; 7.8% live at poverty levels (2014).

Seniors are at-risk, resulting from fixed incomes and challenges that range from a lack of transportation options, mobility problems and other medical issues. As they age, it becomes more likely that on a regular basis, seniors will have to choose between medication and food. Seniors show higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, heart attack and asthma. And poor nutrition can be a causative factor for all of these.

Fortunately, there’s the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which began in 1968 initially to improve the health of low-income women and their infants and children.  It provides supplemental food, information about good nutrition, and a link to health care. Since 1982, the program’s focus expanded to include low-income elderly citizens. CSFP is part of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)/U.S. Department of Agriculture. They distribute food and funds to states rather than food vouchers that programs like WIC provide directly to participants. Since those who are eligible cannot participate in both the CSFP and the WIC at the same time, the CSFP has largely become an agency providing for the low-income senior community, aiming to improve health and nutrition.

For seniors living in participating states, food packages are provided for those meeting eligibility requirements. Currently, 39 states including NJ, the District of Columbia and two Native American Reservations offer CSFP benefits. Participants must reside in the state to benefit from the program and meet the established income limits for this population, which is to be at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. Funding in 2012 in NJ was $209,368 and 2,931 low-income elderly residents were served.

A variety of foods are provided to help to create a balanced diet, however, it is not intended to be a complete diet. Packages supplied by the New Jersey agency include foods such as nonfat dry and ultra-high temperature fluid milk, juice, farina, oats, ready-to-eat cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. USDA maintains a List of Foods Available for CSFP.

Table to Table helps bridge the nutritional gap in the diets of a large group of low-income seniors through regular deliveries to our recipient agencies. How can you help senior residents of NJ eat a healthier diet and reduce having to choose between medication and food, fight obesity, and improve their health? Spread the word about programs like CSFP, check on senior neighbors, relatives and friends – you be shocked by who is in need – and support organizations like Table to Table. With the increasing number of Baby Boomers retiring, we are obligated to supply more nutritious, fresh food to our agencies that care for senior community members.  According to our Director of Recipient Relations, Julie Kinner, “90% of our agencies serve seniors in one way or another. With the aid of this generous community, we will always be there to help feed them.”

REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES.

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