By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - A meager income and the escalating costs of her prescription drugs have placed 83-year-old Mildred Meier in a dilemma common to many elderly people today.
"It was getting to the point where I say to myself, 'Do I buy food or do I buy medicine?'" the Millville woman said.
But a federal food program that started Friday in Butler County will help ease the plight of Meier and other seniors in similar situations.
Forty-pound food packages from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program were distributed to 450 elderly people in southern Butler County.
More than 300 people picked up food packages at a drive-through distribution site at Senior Citizens Inc. at Ross and B streets. About 100 packages were delivered to people's homes.
Each month, the packages will be delivered to the low-income seniors who are accepted into the program.
Because Meier doesn't drive, her daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Richard McDonald of Fairfield Township, picked up her food package for her at Senior Citizens Inc.
"There's a good variety of food in the boxes," Meier said. "It's a big help to me."
Shared Harvest Foodbank in Fairfield receives and coordinates the distribution of the food.
There's a critical need for this program, said Tina Osso, executive director of the Shared Harvest Foodbank.
"Some senior citizens don't have enough money to put food on their plates every night," Osso said.
Since advertising this new program, she has received phone calls from dozens of people, including retired nurses, teachers and factory workers, who can't afford to buy the food they need.
Hunger among the elderly is a national problem. The United States has the second highest senior-citizen poverty rate among industrialized nations, according to the Food Security Institute Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University.
The 40-pound packages distributed by the Commodity Supplemental Food Program contain such items as cheese, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, dry beans, rice, pasta and powdered milk.
Program beneficiaries in the Middletown area can pick up their first box of food from 9 a.m. to noon Friday at the former Reed-Klopp Furniture Building at Central and Verity Parkway in Middletown.
The food will be distributed at this location on the third Friday of each month.
Oxford-area residents will receive their first boxes of food from 9 a.m. to noon July 25 at the Oxford Family Resource Center on College Corner Pike.
The food will be distributed at this site on the fourth Friday of each month.
So far, 750 people have been accepted into the program, but there are another 1,250 openings, Osso said.
Carl Tackett, a 65-year-old Hamilton man who picked up his food package Friday, said his prescription drug bills and monthly rent eat up a good potion of his income. He doesn't have much money for food.
"This program is very important to me financially," he said. "I see this as something that will be a big relief for me."
To qualify for this program, applicants must be at least 60 years old and must have incomes at least 130 percent below the poverty level.
Those wanting to apply for the program can call Susan Molinski of SELF (Supports to Encourage Low-income Families) at 868-9300; Joan Long of Senior Citizens Inc. in Hamilton at 867-1998, ext. 237); Pat Hincks of Middletown Family Services at 423-4637; or Tina Barker of Oxford Family Resource Center at 523-5859.
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