Nutrition cubed, plus cheese
By: John Liesveld | [email protected]
A potpourri of good nutrition that comes in a cardboard cube with a side of cheese, the Stockboxes for Seniors program continues to make strides in filling the sometimes amorphous and unseen voids of food insecurity and hunger among those age 60 and older.
And state and local organizers and sponsors of the program are stocking up, packing in and spreading the word for the second round of the Langlade County hunger-fighting program. The next distribution day occurs March 29 at the Antigo Public Library, and the registration deadline is Tuesday.
Nationally known as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the impact of the Stockbox program on hunger runs 20 years deep. Every month, under the CSFP, the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, an organization driven by its mission to combat hunger on all fronts, distributes nearly 10,000 Stockboxes to low-income seniors in participating counties across the state.
While not a new program statewide or nationally, it is only in its second month of operation in the Langlade County area. After a successful first month that overcame a slight logistical hiccup when a snowstorm resulted in postponement of the initial distribution day Feb. 22, the actual distribution was rescheduled to Feb. 24.
Tammy Hansen, FoodWIse coordinator for UW-Madison, Division of Extension, which provides oversight of the Langlade County Stockboxes program, said the postponement required organizers to call all 123 Langlade County and all 125 Lincoln County participants to inform them the event’s time had changed.
Despite the weather tangle, the eventual distribution occurred without a hitch and with great success.
“(It) went remarkably smoothly,” Hansen said. “We hope that the program will continue to grow as qualifying seniors find out how easy it is to register for and access. This program is a great example of what can be achieved when a team of committed, caring community members work together to help alleviate hunger among older adults who are struggling during this unprecedented time.”
Evidence of that success comes with the additional 27 registered participants for the month of March. And for those who qualify, participants have through Tuesday to sign up.
Each 25- to 30-pound box includes canned fruits and vegetables, juice, cereal, canned and dry milk, peanut butter, canned meat, canned soup, rice, instant potatoes and pasta. And each box also comes with a one-pound block of cheese. The boxes are delivered free of charge to various distribution points statewide by the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee. In Langlade County, that point will be the Antigo Public Library.
“Our next distribution is March 29,” Hansen said. “By then we are hoping their won’t be any snow issues … but you never know; we are in northern Wisconsin.”
Senior food insecurity snapshot
A Hunger Task Force snapshot of hunger in Wisconsin revealed that in December 2019 senior poverty rates were at 7.6%. And according to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, poverty and hunger show a strong relationship.
However, the organization also states that even among those who live above the poverty line, food insecurity and hunger can become issues under the right circumstance, such as living with a disability, chronic health condition or other disadvantage that introduces obstacles to grocery shopping
In its “State of Senior Hunger 2019,” Feeding America, provide an overview of the extent of food insecurity and hunger-related concerns that focused on seniors (60 and older) that existed just prior to COVID-19.
The report found that across county, an estimated 7.1% of seniors suffer food insecurity, defined as “lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.” Wisconsin levels lie slightly below, at 4.7%.
Released in the midst of the pandemic, the report notes that it is based on data collected in 2018 and 2019, before COVID-19 blipped on anyone’s radar. Based on additional food insecurity and health research by the authors, the report goes on to caution that evidence suggests the health impacts inflicted by COVID-19 put food-insecure seniors a specific population of concern due to their poor health outcomes.
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