Food staple give-away aids needy Half recipients are elderly people CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

December 16, 1992|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

A pound of butter, five pounds of cornmeal, a can each of green beans, peanut butter and pork, and a sack of potatoes.

It may not sound like much, but for many Carroll County residents, those cans and sacks can mean the difference between going hungry and having enough to eat.

Four times a year, for four days, the Emergency Food Assistance Program gives free staple foods to about 1,200 low-income Carroll County households, said Sylvia Canon, executive director Human Services Programs of Carroll County, which administers TEFAP from its Westminster office.

Up to half the recipients are senior citizens, Ms. Canon said, although exact numbers are not available because TEFAP staff do not keep track of clients' ages.

The amount of food a family receives depends on the size of the household. The items offered vary. Other foods that are sometimes available include applesauce, kidney beans, orange juice, peas, raisins and rice.

Recipes developed by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland tell how to turn the staple items into nutritious meals.

"We go to a lot of trouble" to reach out to senior citizens, Ms. Canon said.

People are automatically eligible to receive TEFAP food if they are receiving food stamps, medical assistance, energy assistance, general public assistance, or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, said Mel Ginsburg, administrator of the Maryland TEFAP program.

In addition, people are also eligible if their income is below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. That is $852 a month for a single person, or $1,149 for a family of two.

The Carroll County Senior Information and Assistance Program often refers eligible seniors to TEFAP, said its coordinator, Elizabeth Passman, and its volunteers deliver TEFAP food to about 100 shut-in seniors' households.

Ms. Canon said the staff is sensitive to the embarrassment some people may feel about asking for help.

"It's not an easy thing to do," she said, "and we like to make it as easy and painless as possible."

The food comes from two sources, said Mr. Ginsburg. Butter and cornmeal come from U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that use federal money to support commodity prices by buying surplus produce, he said.

Other foods are bought with federal money appropriated by Congress especially for this purpose, Mr. Ginsburg said. Nationally, TEFAP received $120 million this year to buy food, and $45 million for administrative costs.

This year, Congress also appropriated an extra $60 million for a one-time special purchase of food.

The federal and state governments share administrative costs, Mr. Ginsburg said.

The county contributes indirectly to the program, Ms. Canon said, by providing staff time, office space and some stationery and supplies.

But the Maryland program is in financial trouble.

"We're faced with a critical fiscal crisis," said Mr. Ginsburg.

After the 1990 census, the federal government reapportioned TEFAP administrative funds to reflect changes in the way the poor are distributed among the 50 states. As a result of that reapportionment, the Maryland program's administrative money was cut by 9.7 percent.

At the same time, the one-time special purchase of food this year means the states have an extra 1 million pounds of food to distribute, but no extra money to pay for the distribution.

"I am looking at all kinds of options" to reduce costs, Mr. Ginsburg said. The program is timing food shipments better, to reduce warehouse expenses.

He said TEFAP may have to cut the number of days food is distributed and seek more private donations of transportation and money.

The program has to keep extensive records documenting where each can of food goes, Ms. Canon said, and nothing is wasted.

In Carroll County, if there is any food left over when the quarterly distribution is done, it is given to Carroll County Food Sunday to stock emergency food pantries, she said.

"We're big into recycling," she said. "We don't throw away anything."

The program relies heavily on volunteers. Mr. Ginsburg said 3,500 of them keep the Maryland program going.

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