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Fresh Produce and Recipes Distributed through Maine’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program

May 27, 2020

At locations in western Maine, SNAP-Ed is working with a local community coalition to enhance monthly food boxes with farm fresh fruits and vegetables!  The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) aims to help low-income older adults by enriching their diets with healthy, non-perishable pantry staples. CSFP is a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Maine SNAP-Ed enhanced the monthly boxes and created “Senior Boxes” for over 200 low income older adults. These boxes include the CSFP panty staples plus produce from local farms, recipes for healthy meals, and nutrition education materials.


“The pick-up location is easy for folks to drive right up and get loaded, and they look forward to trying the new recipes every month.”
— SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator.

a woman get supplies out of her car

 

Challenge
Many older adults do not get enough nutrients in their diet. Almost 1 in 3 low-income Mainers over the age of 60 face hunger, and Maine has the 12th highest food insecurity rate among older adults in the U.S.  Older adults may find it difficult to pay for healthy food at the grocery store, and they may also struggle to get to the store because of limited mobility or lack of transportation. Inadequate nutrition increases the risk of health problems such as a weak immune system, decreased bone mass, and risk of hospitalization.


Solution
A Maine SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator worked with two local farms to add fresh produce to CSFP boxes in addition to the non-perishables provided by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) via Good Shepherd Food Bank.

There are two ways that the “Senior Boxes” are distributed:

  • All boxes arrive at one site and are directly given to eligible recipients.
  • A housing site coordinator picks up the boxes, and they are distributed at participating senior housing locations.

Boxes have included Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, and apples, along with recipes that make it easier to cook a healthy meal with the local produce. Participants also receive the “Eating Better on a Budget” cookbook, with additional recipes, meal planning ideas, and shopping tips.

Maine SNAP-Ed Eating Better on a Budget 10 tips booklet cover

Sustaining Success
The ongoing partnerships with farms, along with relationships with local gleaning groups to harvest excess crops, ensures that fresh produce will continue to be a part of CSFP boxes in the Rumford area. The River Valley Healthy Communities coalition is also working to secure grants to continue purchases of local fruits and vegetables. Recently, through the partnership with Wayside Food Programs, a second CSFP pick-up site was established in western Maine, further increasing access to the “Senior Boxes.”

At the state level, the SNAP-Ed program works closely with the Maine DACF to support CSFP and other food access programs.  This strengthens the impact of the agencies and makes it easier for older adults in Maine to access and enjoy nutritious, healthy meals.


“Fresh fruits and vegetables are a critical component of a healthy diet and really balance out the wholesome staple foods provided through the CSFP program.”
— Director, Division of Agricultural Resource Development at DACF


In 2019, six SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators worked to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for Maine’s older adults through CSFP, senior farm shares, and gardens at senior living facilities. These seniors were encouraged to attend free nutrition education classes to help them stretch their food dollars while preparing healthy meals with the locally grown food they receive.


The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) operates the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in all 16 counties across Maine. In 2018, CSFP provided monthly food boxes to 9,229 low-income adults (60 years and older). The “Senior Boxes” provide 30 pounds of nutritious food each month (dried beans, ready-to-eat cereals, and canned meats and vegetables). Boxes are distributed at community centers, churches, food pantries, warming centers, and other locations that serve Maine’s older adults.

Submitted by Maine SNAP-Ed, a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency.  For more Success Stories from the Maine SNAP-Ed program, please visit www.mainesnap-ed.org. Further information and data sources are available upon request by emailing mainesnap-ed@une.edu.