Central PA Food Bank Newsletter Spotlights Food Basket
Editor’s Note: The following two items about the Fulton County Food Basket and its ElderShare program were featured in the Central PA Food Bank’s 2011-2012 winter newsletter.
ElderShare program feeds seniors
Nestled in the rolling hills and farmland of bucolic Fulton County, McConnellsburg looks like a typical “Norman Rockwell” small town. Passersby are greeted with a warm smile and hello, and the gentle pace is far removed from the hustle and bustle of larger towns and cities.
On this day, however, the easy-going nature outside is a stark contrast to the folks gathered inside Fulton County Food Basket. Located in the center of town, Fulton County Food Basket is distributing much-needed boxes of food to seniors today. This is not the location most people expect hunger to exist, and these are not the typical faces of hunger conjured by most, but these Elder- Share boxes have become a lifeline for the recipients.
LaNean is 75 years old and has recently moved from San Diego to Fulton County to be closer to her son. Besides the culture shock of now dealing with cold winters, she also is now trying to make ends meet with just her social security check. “Prices keep going up in the grocery store, everything keeps going up everywhere,” said LaNean. “I have to do what I can to cut my food costs because I have other expenses too. I have to make sure I have enough to go around to the end of the month. So this helps keep me eating.”
Sherry Lynn is the Elder- Share program coordinator for Fulton County Food Basket. She has seen the program grow since its inception, and how it helps the seniors in her town. The program started with 20 boxes being distributed in June 2010, and they now distribute 61 boxes each month. “A lot of the seniors have talked about their income when they come in,” said Sherri. “A lot of it is about the grocery bills in the markets now, with the skyrocketing cost of the staples: their vegetables, their milk, their cheese. They love the cheese they receive in the box. A lot of them can’t afford blocks of cheese at the grocery store.”
In all, the Central PA Food Bank distributes more than 4,700 ElderShare boxes each month. The boxes are filled with cereal, peanut butter, fruit juice, vegetables and many other high nutrient items aimed at increasing the health and stretching the food dollars for seniors like LaNean and Willy. Willy has lived in Fulton County for 22 years, and now struggles with buying food and paying his medical bills. “I just saw my doctor two weeks ago,” said Willy. “I have so many medical bills and I see her about every three months. I said to her, can you cut this down to twice a year? If I can cut that down a little bit then I’ll have a little bit more money to handle some of the other bills. This box really helps when I don’t have the money to buy the food. At least I’ve got this box to go to each month, and I can count on it.”
With more and more seniors trying to stretch their dollars, the USDA-funded ElderShare program has become essential for them each month. “I feel their pain,” says Lynn. “A lot of them are alone. They don’t have family in Fulton County, so when they come here, they feel that we’re almost family, and that’s great. I love that we can be like a family member for them and help them out.”
Agency Spotlight Fulton County Food Basket
In addition to being an ElderShare distribution site, Fulton County Food Basket, which as been in existence since 1982, serves 140 families/ 345 individuals each month. Construction of a new walk-in freezer/cooler has just been completed to help better serve the residents of Fulton County. In addition to providing food, the Fulton County Food Basket also runs two programs for the community: the Fulton Community Garden Program and the Fulton County Nutrition Awareness Program.
The Fulton County Garden Program provides a plot fo land, seeds, fertilizer and tools for individuals to grow their own vegetables. The local PA extension office offers expert advice to maintain the gardens. Last year, 46 people took part in the garden program, with many of them donating extra fresh vegetables back to the Food Basket.
The Fulton County Nutrition Awarenss program provides nutrition education to families in Fulton County and at all three senior center locations in the county. Nutrition education is also provided in a pre-school and afterschool program throughout the county and at Forbes Road Elementary.