Catasauqua Press

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Guest view: Seniors, apply for SUNShine boxes

Thursday, February 11, 2016 by The Press in Opinion

Hunger comes to people due to circumstances beyond their control at different times in their lives. We are doing what we can to educate our community. I am very adamant that no one should be hungry in a country as rich as ours. Unfortunately, this is a national problem and is in every community, not just the major cities.

Hunger affects all ages, but it is very common with senior citizens 60 years old and older. Many people live by themselves and really just snack to get by. They are not eating healthy, and some do not have enough income to have one nutritious meal, let alone three meals a day. Unfortunately, many seniors (like other age groups) do not want others to know they need help. Other people have felt the same way and have come forward. They are glad they did not let their pride get in their way from having food! Seniors, please take advantage of the following program.

Second Harvest offers the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is also known as SUNShine (Serving UnderNourished Seniors) boxes. This is a federal food program designed to improve the health and nutrition of senior citizens. Participants must be at least 60 years of age and income eligible. This program came to Pennsylvania in 2002. Now in 2016, Second Harvest Food Bank serves six counties with a caseload of 2,025 food boxes, which are distributed each and every month. These statistics are per Second Harvest.

A SUNShine box usually includes staple commodities of four cans of vegetables, two large bottles of juice, two cans of fruit, one protein (canned chicken, pork, beef, beef stew or chili), a two-pound block of cheese, two UHT milk containers, peanut butter, two boxes of cereal and one pasta or rice. Fresh fruits and vegetables may also be available. WIC participants receive one extra juice and two extra UHT milks a month.

Renee Gombert oversees this program for the Whitehall Food Bank. Please call her at 484-358-6722 for more information and to fill out an application. I just found out that the SUNShine boxes have been offered at the Whitehall Food Bank for some time now. Coplay residents are also encouraged to take advantage of this program by calling Renee. The Coplay Food Bank is not part of Second Harvest and, therefore, cannot obtain these boxes directly. Seniors still can go to the Coplay Food Bank, but this is additional food that can be obtained.

The Whitehall Food Bank currently distributes 21 SUNShine boxes monthly. We would like to double or even triple that number. However, boxes are available by need, and there is a waiting list. Renee has to show that there is a larger need in our area to get more boxes. Second Harvest has an application drive for SUNShine boxes in February and March. Second Harvest must demonstrate the increasing need to the federal government before the government issues more funds for the boxes. The number usually changes with the new budget year, July 2016. Recipients will either get their boxes once the list is expanded or if someone comes off the list. There is a waiting list of two people right now in Whitehall.

I don’t think most seniors know this program exists. Many baby boomers live here, and I am sure there are more than 21 people in need who would qualify for this program. Once the applicant is approved and the government appropriates the increase in boxes, the recipient can come in and obtain the boxes monthly.

You may be very surprised that your neighbor or family member is in need. No one asks for help. I am asking the public to help us get the seniors who qualify to take advantage of this program. Please talk up this program at work, at church, with your neighbors and family members. Senior citizens groups should also contact Renee. She may be able to come to one of your meetings and explain this program.

Our Hunger Initiative is here to help.