Originally published in the Katahdin Region News
By Shelley Farrington
KATAHDIN REGION – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit people’s income and access to food and other household staples; citizens are relying more and more on assistance programs for help.
Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) operates numerous aid programs in the region including a commodity food box program that many residents may qualify for and don’t realize it.
Kelly Adams, nutrition operation and logistics manager for EAAA, said the numbers of citizens using the commodity food box program, also known as the senior food box program, has grown since the pandemic but she knows more people could be using it.
There is an income requirement for the program; an applicant must be 60 or older, single person income of $1,307 per month or $1,760 for a two person household. Adams said if a person is living off their social security income then they automatically qualify.
If approved, the applicant will get one, 30 pound box of food each month meant to supplement what’s already available. Adams said each box includes such shelf staples as juice, milk, peanut butter, cereal, canned protein (chicken or tuna), pasta, rice, vegetables and cheese.
Because this is a USDA program that is used all across the country the boxes contain the same types of food each month. However, Adams said EAAA partners with Good Shepherd Food Bank to offer seasonal fresh vegetables as a compliment to the box.
Adams said there are 57 distribution locations over four counties with over 200 volunteers working to get the boxes out to applicants. Distribution locations include Enfield, Howland, Lagrange, Lincoln, Mattawamkeag, Springfield, Millinocket, East Millinocket and Patten.
“The commodities food program is designed to get food out to people,” Adams said. “If you can’t get out to pick up your box then you can designate a proxy to pick it up for you.”
Adams said EAAA recognizes that some people aren’t comfortable getting boxes in their hometowns so the box recipient can choose the distribution site they’d like to use. She added that all the CDC guidelines are being followed at each distribution site.
She said the best thing potential recipients can do is contact the EAAA office at 941-2865 or 1-800-432-7812 to apply or get more information. People can also apply at the distribution site or following the link on the www.eaaa.org website.
Adams said applicants will know within a day or two if they’ve been approved for the program.
She said she believes that if more people knew about the program and how it worked then more people would use it. So far there are 414 boxes being prepared for Katahdin Region and Lincoln Lakes.
“Rural areas need to know about this program,” Adams said, “we need to get the word out. There are more people out there who can use this.”