Pennsylvania is trying to increase access to a federally funded food support program for seniors.
More than 300,000 Pennsylvanians over age 60 are eligible for the Senior Food Box program, but only about 35,000 participate, the state said.
For a household to be eligible, income may not exceed 130% of the U.S. poverty level. To make it easier to sign up, however, the state has waived income verification, effective April 1, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.
"We want to take hunger off the table for Pennsylvania's seniors," Redding said last week at a media briefing in Phoenixville, announcing the change.
"We want it to be as easy as possible to receive," Redding said. "So now, just indicate on the application form that you are eligible for help and you’ll receive it."
The Senior Food Box program provides food staples to recipients on a monthly basis, including shelf-stable milk, grains, canned meat and canned fruits and vegetables.
It is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Supplemental Food Program and was previously known by that name.
The USDA purchases the food and provides it to the state for distribution, along with $3.1 million, as of the current fiscal year, to cover administrative costs, said Shannon Powers, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Participants can receive their boxes via pickup, drive-through, or delivery by program partners, including senior apartment complexes, community centers and food pantries.
Much of the distribution is handled by the 17 food banks in the Hunger-Free Pennsylvania network, which includes the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The food bank provides the monthly boxes to about 5,000 seniors in its service area, including more than 600 in Lancaster County, executive director Joe Arthur said.
“We are thankful that Pennsylvania is streamlining the enrollment process for eligible seniors," Arthur said. "We applaud these enhancements."