Closings & Delays across the Tennessee Valley

Government shutdown freezes state application for senior citizen food program

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Every state in our country, including U.S territory, Puerto Rico  has a food commodity program specifically for people 60 years and older, except Alabama. The number of seniors in Alabama who don't know where their next meal is coming from is growing. To make matters worse, Alabama's application for the program has been delayed.

While local food banks are making efforts to fill the gap in case of an emergency, especially if the shutdown continues, many north Alabamians could go hungry.

Food insecurity is defined as not knowing where your next meal is coming from. The state is trying to eliminate that growing insecurity among our senior citizen population.

But the government shutdown has halted that process.

Shirley Schofield, executive director of the Food Bank of North Alabama, said seniors aren't as easy to serve.

"Its an area that's a little bit hard to reach, the seniors, because for one thing a lot of them have never asked for assistance all their lives," said Schofield.

49 states and 3 Indian reservations have federal food programs aimed specifically at serving people 60 and older.

"Alabama is the only state in the nation that does not have a commodity program specifically for seniors. There's a program called CSFP," explained Schofield.

CFSP stands for Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and it provides nutritious foods, fruits, and beverages to elders in need.

Schofield said now that many seniors are retired, they don't have a steady income and their lives have shifted dramatically.

"It may mean that you're trying to stay with family members to try and share with them," explained Schofield. "Or you're eating crackers or something, not having a full meal."

Alabama is the very last state to apply for the program and now, processing the application is further delayed due to the partial shutdown. There's no sign of whether Alabama will qualify for the program.

Schofield said the state applied for it in 2018. In the meantime, the food bank plans to continue its 11 county outreach program for seniors, delivering non-perishables to elders in low-income housing.