Pat Cassaday raves about the cheese she receives each month through her Commodity Supplemental Food Program box.

“I could not afford the cheese. It’s such a good product, there’s no way I would be able to have it if I did not get it through this program,” she said. “The canned beef stew is also a very good meal. We get cereal, milk, vegetables. One box a month lasts me quite a while.”

CSFP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that works to improve the health of low-income senior citizens by supplementing their diets with nutritious food. The Food Bank helps distribute nearly 2,000 of those boxes each month to agencies in 22 counties.

Pat receives her CSFP box through Douglass Community Support Services in Marion County. The agency, which also provides emergency food and other social services, distributes 215 so-called senior boxes each month, said Stacey Nicholas, the RSVP coordinator at the center.

“It provides good quality nutrition,” she said. “For some low-income seniors, it’s a gateway to get them interested in more nutritious food from the food pantry.”

And for many, she said, the boxes allow older adults to remain on their own.

“Many are fighting illnesses, and good health is key to keeping immune systems strong,” Stacey said.

For Pat, who also works at Douglass Community Support Services, the additional benefit helps her remain financially independent.

“I try to make it all work,” she said. “I do pretty well, but if I didn’t have this job to help me and the food given out, it would be different.”