Cutline: Shaney Fragstein, left, helps her grandmother Irene Brady, second from left, load her Senior Food Boxes recently at Orange’s Optimist Village, where Brady resides. Helping with the food distribution are Matthew Alberici and Alina Gutierrez from the Houston Food Bank.
 
Senior Food Box Program seeks enrollees
 
Dave Rogers
For The Record
 
Hundreds of slots are still available for low-income elderly to enroll to receive free monthly boxes of food from the government’s Commodity Support Food Program, also known as the Senior Food Box program.
It is a federal food program designed to improve the health of senior citizens. Food for the program is provided by the USDA’s Agency of Food and Nutrition Service.
The Southeast Texas Food Bank is a new contractor for the program and can sign up 2,000 people for the program for the eight regional counties it serves.
As of Monday, only 1,300 people had been registered, said Dan Maher, executive director of the food bank, noting that most were from Jefferson County.
In order to qualify, applicants must be 60 years of age or older, residents of Southeast Texas and must present proof of an income equal or less than 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
For a single-member household, the current cutoff is an income of $15,678 per year; for a couple, it’s $21,112.
Maher was in Orange on July 11 and enrolled about 125 seniors for the program during hour-long stops at Orange Christian Services, Heritage Village and Optimist Village.
Those are the first monthly distribution sites for the county.
“We’ll probably add Orange County locations,” Maher said Monday.
Registration information is available online at setxfoodbank.org, or by phoning 409-839-8777.
Texas has the fourth-highest rate of senior food insecurity in the nation. Food insecurity used to be called “hunger.”
Feeding Texas, a statewide network of food banks serving every county in the state, reported to the 2015 Texas Legislature that 8.9 percent of Texas seniors were at risk for hunger.
Senior Food Boxes include “about 40 pounds of senior-friendly food,” Maher said.
That’s a variety of foods, such as fruit juice and milk, canned protein (chicken, chili, stew), canned fruit and vegetables, dried beans or peanut butter, cereal, pasta, and cheese.
Houston Food Bank is helping with distribution until Southeast Texas Food Bank takes over the deliveries starting in October.
“We will ultimately handle the food and distributions,” Maher said. “It’s new for us. Right now, we’re cooperating with the Houston Food Bank, and we won’t take completely over until the new federal fiscal year starts in October.”

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