Each month, the St. Louis Area Foodbank distributes more than 8,500 “senior boxes” of food to low-income seniors in Missouri and Illinois.
So, what is a “senior box?”
They are boxes of shelf-stable foods intended to help low-income seniors supplement the food they can afford to buy at the store.
Technically, the boxes are called Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, boxes.
CSFP boxes distributed through St. Louis Area Foodbank partner agencies go to low-income seniors in St. Louis city and county, and in St. Clair and Madison counties in Illinois.
These boxes of food are designed to be a nutritional supplement to the diets of the qualified seniors who have applied to receive the box monthly.
Each box includes:
- low-sodium, low-sugar cereal and juice
- canned vegetables and fruits
- shelf-stable milk
- pasta, rice or other grains
- the infamous brick of cheese
Elevating Good to Better
Recently, my Foodbank colleagues and I set out to improve the variety of food in the senior boxes. After some tinkering with the makeup of the box and our ordering system, I’m happy to report that we were able to greatly improve the variety of food in each box.
Instead of two jugs of the same type of juice and two boxes of the same cereal, seniors now get two kinds of juice and two kinds of cereal. These small changes mean they’ll get better overall mix of foods in each box – ideally so they can plan recipes with the contents.
After working with this program for almost five years, I have come to know just how important these boxes of food are to the people who get them.
Seniors who receive the box have told me several times just how much this food means to them. It helps them get through the month until their food stamp (SNAP) benefits come in. And it helps them make fewer trips to the food pantry.
Some seniors don’t qualify for food stamps, even though they struggle to feed themselves. For these individuals, the senior box is even more important – without it, they may have to skip meals or choose between buying food and paying for medicine.
The Social Benefit
Beyond the food itself, seniors tell me they enjoy the “social” benefits of receiving a senior box.
They say they really enjoy the puzzles and recipes, and like reading the helpful hints that are included in the box each month.
Perhaps even more important, they say they look forward to seeing their friends every month when they pick up their boxes. It gives them a great chance to catch up and get out of the house for a little bit.
It’s true that the main purpose of the senior box is to provide necessary food for low-income seniors.
But what I have found is that it isn’t just food that they are receiving, but the hope and knowledge that someone out there cares.
I truly love what I do.
By Suzi Seeker
St. Louis Area Foodbank Missouri CSFP/SNAP Coordinator