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Volunteers package groceries to help hungry seniors

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PABLO – About a dozen members from the Ronan High School Honor Society along with local volunteers worked together to prepare food packages for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Managed through the office of the Lake County Council on Aging, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program is a federally-funded program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture designed to assist food-insecure people over the age of 60 years with a good mix of nutritious items to help supplement their food needs.

“CSFP plays an important role in our community by providing specifically designed food packages to supplement needed sources of nutrients typically lacking in program participants’ diets,” said Dara Rodda, executive director of Lake County Council on Aging. “This helps combat the health consequences of senior hunger and can ultimately help seniors avoid costly hospitalizations.”

At the Pablo Christian Church gymnasium, ground zero for the operation, volunteers gather every other month to assemble the food packages that are to be distributed to the seniors. Unloading the truck by hand begins the process.

A small group of workers break down the various food pallets on the truck and send them down the rollers. A much larger group of volunteers pick up, separate and organize the food items into the makeshift warehouse.

Once the truck is unloaded, the process of assembling the food packages begins. The volunteers divided into two groups to form an assembly line. One group handed out the food to another group of volunteers who were filling the bags.

Over the course of the morning, the team sorted through an astounding 15,000 pounds of food and put together 220 food packages headed to seniors all across Lake County.

The day’s effort left many of the volunteers with a sense of accomplishment, as they were able to help out the community. “I love it,” exclaimed Ronan High School senior Sacorra Reum. “I love being able to show our community how much we are all one close group of people.”

Many seniors are living on a fixed income, but their expenses for everyday items like food, fuel and utilities continue to rise. All too often seniors have to make difficult choices, like choosing between paying for their medications or buying food. “The CSFP program helps vulnerable seniors from having to choose between food and other basic needs,” Rodda said.

The food packages are intended to be a healthy addition to meals prepared at home when other food sources are running low. Seniors who qualify for the CSFP program pick up their package of about 70 pounds of food at their local senior citizen center once every two months. Participants may find non-perishable canned vegetables and fruit, hot or ready-to-eat cereal, pasta, a two-pound block of cheese, juice, dry beans, rice, peanut butter and canned meats.

In addition to distributing a bi-monthly food package, the Lake County Council on Aging has expanded its outreach to include the distribution of fresh produce to seniors.

“The biggest feedback we have gotten from this program is that seniors would like more fresh food,” said Rodda. “Luckily, we have gotten a Senior Farmers Market Coupon grant for the last two years and are expected to receive it again this year. This program gives low-income seniors vouchers to buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey from the Farmers Markets in Lake County. This program will begin in May.”

To learn more about the Lake County Council and its programs, including volunteering and the CSFP program, visit www. or call 406-676-2367.

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