Shutdown Has Michigan Seniors Hungry and Worried

By Chis Berry

The USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program has been put on hold due to the partial government shutdown. Seniors are extremely scared where their next meal will come from. Consider Michigan’s Kent County for example, where more than 1,300 low-income seniors depend on the program.

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While many of these seniors utilize Social Security to cover expenses like utilities and insurance, they depend on the government food program for their meals. People like Bill Anderson, 81, and his wife, June, 83, who have depleted their savings paying for medical emergencies. They depend on weekly deliveries of nutritionally balanced surplus food.

“The pantry gives you food, but not really enough to put in your refrigerator,” June Anderson says.

“I would get out and beg before I’d let us go hungry,” Bill Anderson adds

To qualify for the program you must be over 60 with an annual income under $15,000. Distribution agencies in 40 states and two Native American reservations distribute the food packages. In Michigan, 29 agencies provided food for tens of thousands of residents until Oct. 3, when the USDA seized reimbursement for those agencies.

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Judy Cusin had the burden of breaking the news to 1,500 low-income seniors that they would not be receiving their next meal.

“They had some not nice words,” Judy Cusin says. “They said the people in Washington shouldn’t get paid because they’re not doing their job is what we heard a lot of.”

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Kent County’s Community Action Agency is recommending that its seniors stretch their existing food supply by watering down milk and soup.

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