HW: Health Department aims to get food where it belongs
Being hungry and unable to afford food is a reality for some local residents, said officials with the Mesa County Health Department.
September is Hunger Action Month in Mesa County and the Health Department wants to get the word out about the food assistance programs available to those who need it most.
The federally funded Commodity Supplemental Food program is utilized by approximately 1,300 senior citizens each month, said Michael Heidel, warehouse manager for the program. Since the program is federally funded, there are eligibility requirements based on age and income.
The number of people 60 and older allowed to enroll also is limited, but there are slots available now, Heidel said. He doesn’t know how long it will be before he must put together another waiting list.
“Some of our clients are trying to live on $600 a month,” Heidel said. “Could you live on $600 a month?”
The Commodity Supplemental Food program can be found in a large warehouse at 486 Morning Glory Lane along with the privately-funded Community Food Bank.
In contrast to the government-controlled Commodity Supplemental Food program, the Community Food Bank does not have the same restrictions on who it can help, as is evidenced by the myriad of faces June Craig has seen in her 16 years volunteering as the program coordinator.
Craig remembers one winter when a mother walked in needing food. Wrapped inside the mother’s coat was her 1-year-old child. The baby did not have a coat.
“If I had a child and they were hungry, I’d go anywhere I could to find food,” Craig said.
For some single mothers, that place is area food banks. Craig also has helped the homeless and the elderly.
The only restriction at the Community Food Bank is that people can collect food nine times a year.
Proof of Mesa County residency, an identification and the last four digits of his or her Social Security number are also required to obtain food, Craig said.
Craig estimates the privately funded Community Food Bank helps an average of 1,450 people monthly.
“We try to give a balanced meal,” Craig said. “Everyone who comes in is treated like a human being.”
The increase in prices for most things, including food, has placed the spotlight on community food banks and other Mesa County food-assistance programs. Craig said donations have fallen off as everyone examines the family budget, but she said hunger can’t be ignored.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Craig said. “We could all be in that position someday.”