CSFP: Free Food for Older Mainers


James, has a long beard, a red tshirt, jeans, and a baseball cap. He is holding two bags of produce near a rolling distribution line on his left and a line of waiting cars on his right.
James, a CSFP volunteer, loads bags of produce into waiting cars at a CSFP distribution.

Several months ago, I met an older man in the PRFC parking lot. He told me that he was looking for information about food distributions in the area. I went inside to gather some information for him. When I came back out to his truck, he held out a handful of papers and began to leaf through them one by one. “These are my prescriptions,” he said, pointing at the cost of each one, “It’s hard to afford all of them, but I need them.”


I think about this man and his prescriptions every time we set up for a CSFP distribution and every time I do CSFP deliveries. I especially think of him if I’m tired or in a bad mood or if the weather is unpleasant. I hope that the CSFP program makes it a little easier for participants to pay for prescriptions, utilities, home repairs, the other little curve balls of life. CSFP stands for Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Piscataquis Regional Food Center is a distribution site for the Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) CSFP program. The CSFP program is open to Maine residents age 60+ who meet income guidelines. Participants must enroll in the program before picking up a food box.


"The CSFP program is so beneficial because it provides low-income older adults with a free box of nutritious shelf-stable groceries every month,” said Kelly Adams, EAAA Nutrition Manager. “The boxes are valued at $50 and the recipients can rely on receiving those food items every month at their distribution. In turn, they do not need to purchase those items at the grocery store and can spend that $50 on gas, heat, or other essential items. That extra $50 a month could be the difference between someone being able to afford gas to get to a medical appointment or keeping their house warm in the winter. This box is not a handout, it is simply a bonus box of food provided by the USDA to help low-income older adults with their groceries. Everyone who meets the guidelines should take advantage of it. It's an awesome program.”


According to Kelly, in 2021, EAAA's CSFP distribution sites distributed roughly 748,000 pounds of food to CSFP consumers at 54 distribution locations throughout the four counties that they serve. EAAA is the supporting agency for the CSFP program in Washington, Hancock, Penobscot, and Piscataquis Counties. The program currently has over 150 volunteers who help distribute the food boxes over 13,000 square miles.


The CSFP distribution at PRFC takes place on the second Thursday of every month from 1:30-3 pm. You might have noticed the string of cars waiting in our parking lot if you’ve ever driven by our building at that time. The distribution is done in a drive-through style. We have six dedicated CSFP volunteers. Two volunteers are on paperwork duty to check participants in. Four volunteers work on the warehouse side to load the passing cars with food. They are incredible volunteers and many of our CSFP consumers look forward to their monthly check-ins with our volunteer crew. One of our warehouse volunteers, Leslie, is famous among our consumers. She is usually dancing as she shouts out how many boxes are needed for each car and peoples’ vegetable and cheese preferences. She goes out of her way to make people smile as they wait their turn in line. On average, we see about 50 consumers on distribution day. I deliver an additional 20 boxes to homebound consumers the following week.


The contents of the CSFP boxes vary slightly from month to month, but I thought I would break down the contents of our March distribution. In the dry goods box, there was: a bag of instant mashed potatoes, 2 boxes of elbow macaroni, a pouch of chicken breast, 2 boxes of cereal, a bottle of grape juice, 2 quarts of shelf-stable milk, a large tin of beef, 3 cans of pears, 2 cans of corn, 3 jars of peanut butter, 2 can of sweet potatoes, and a can of pasta sauce. There is always a block of cheese to go with boxes. We often hand out miscellaneous produce that varies seasonally. This month there were assorted root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots) for everyone and a smaller amount of cabbage and cucumbers for those who wanted them.


If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, please call Eastern Area Agency on Aging, (207) 941-2865 or toll-free (800) 432-7812.


Hosting the EAAA Commodity Supplemental Food Program is just one of the many ways that PRFC works to “Get Food Moving” in Piscataquis County. Support our mission here!





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