GREENFIELD — Certification begins today for a new program coming to Hancock County that will help provide food assistance for low-income senior citizens.
Through a partnership with Indianapolis-based Gleaners Food Bank, the Hancock County Food Pantry will begin offering on a monthly basis 40-pound boxes of supplemental food to seniors who qualify beginning this month.
Seniors must be certified to participate. Certification sessions will be offered the second Wednesday of each month at Hancock County Senior Services.
For the first registration, staff will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To qualify, seniors must be 60 years of age or older, live in Hancock County and have a household income below 130 percent of the poverty line. For a single person living alone, income would need to be below $1,211 per month.
At registration, seniors must show proof of age, address and total gross household income.
Once qualified, they will be able to pick up food boxes on the third Thursday of each month. The 40 pounds of food will include items like pasta or rice, canned fruits and vegetables, cheese, canned meat and other high-protein items, and shelf-stable milk and cereal.
Hancock County Food Pantry executive director Tom Ferguson said the food boxes will be available in addition to monthly food pantry visits.
“The programs are different,” Ferguson explained. “That’s one reason why we’ve elected to offer this.”
Ferguson said that as a Gleaners member pantry, the Hancock pantry has access to Gleaners programs like this one. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and State of Indiana. There is no added cost to the county or to the food pantry.
“What we have to do is provide the hands and feet, the volunteers and some sort of organization,” Ferguson said.
Those resources are being provided through a number of local groups that have come together to sponsor the program. The food pantry, Senior Services, Meals on Wheels of Hancock County, the Greenfield Senior Center and Hancock Regional Hospital are partnering to provide the program and reach out to seniors who may benefit.
“It’s a great example of local, community organizations collaborating to try to solve or reconcile a problem that we have,” Ferguson said.
The program of senior hunger is a growing one. Ferguson said that in the last year alone, the number of seniors utilizing the food pantry has doubled. Last month, 187 seniors visited the pantry. Most of those individuals would qualify for the food box program.
“There is a need,” Ferguson said, citing the growing number of seniors who must choose between food and medication.
Once registered, seniors may also sign up for transportation to and from the food pantry to pick up their monthly supply of food.
Linda Hart, executive director of Hancock County Senior Services, said seniors may schedule an appointment for food pick-up.
“We are very aware that there are a lot of individuals who are very challenged as far as meeting nutritional needs,” Hart said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to be able to help out and make sure people are getting what they need.”