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Letter to the Editor

Advocacy List

Cutting nutrition for seniors is irresponsible, socially and fiscally

While the budget struggle in Washington worries all Americans, some 5,000 Pennsylvania seniors (nearly 1,000 in Allegheny County alone) are wondering if Congress will take away their access to a source of food they depend on to survive.

The Commodities Supplemental Food Program is a federal nutrition program that provides a monthly 40-pound box of healthy food to low-income seniors in 37 states, more than 34,500 in Pennsylvania. The food for this program is federal commodities food, supporting American farmers.

The appropriations bill recently passed by the House of Representatives includes a reduction in funding that would cut 5,221 Pennsylvania seniors from the CSFP rolls immediately. These cuts are being considered while thousands more area seniors would qualify for the program if there was more funding.

Cutting CSFP may seem fiscally responsible, but caring for these at-risk residents won't go away. Food insecurity among seniors exacerbates disease, increases disability, increases care-giving demands and inflates health-care expenditures associated with longer hospital or nursing home stays, and those costs (much more expensive than the cost of CSFP) are often borne by other taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid.

Food service charities cannot cover the gap. We are already stretched too thin trying to cope with the fallout from recession and lingering unemployment.

In the end, we all pay more, and a relatively low-cost, efficient program is decimated for nothing. And real people, vulnerable seniors, go hungry.

JOYCE ROTHERMEL, CEO

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank - Duquesne

Click here to see the letter to the editor on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's website.