Tuesday, Senators and Aging Committee members Mike Braun (D-AZ) and Mark Kelly introduced the Delivering for Rural Seniors Acta bipartisan bill to support the delivery of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), commonly known as the “senior food box.” 

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a federal food assistance program that provides monthly food boxes to low-income seniors. However, seniors living in rural areas, seniors with disabilities, and those without reliable transportation often do not receive home delivery services from food banks participating in CSFP. TheDelivering for Rural Seniors Act would address this gap by creating a pilot program to fund grants specifically for the delivery of CSFP to these underserved populations. 

The bill marks a significant step toward addressing food insecurity among seniors and improving the effectiveness of the CSFP through innovative delivery methods. 

“No senior in America should go hungry. This bill will help rural seniors and those with disabilities get access to food bank services to help cut down on the issue of food insecurity among older Americans,”said Braun, who serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research.  

“Our seniors have worked hard their entire lives and deserve to have access to nutritious food without facing barriers due to mobility or transportation,” said Kelly. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that low-income seniors in Arizona receive the essential food they need directly to their homes, improving their health and quality of life.” 

BACKGROUND:  

St. Mary’s Food Bank has provided home delivery for seniors, including those not enrolled in CSFP, since fall 2020. During that time, they have made more than 6,000 deliveries per month. From July to September 2023, St. Mary’s completed nearly 18,000 deliveries, with CSFP deliveries representing approximately 44 percent. 

In addition to Kelly and Braun, this bill has broad bipartisan support in the Senate. The House version was introduced by Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) and is co-sponsored by 16 Democrats and 13 Republicans.

See what advocates are saying about the Delivering for Rural Seniors Act: 

“As the oldest food bank in the nation, we have an unwavering commitment to serve communities in need. Recent COVID restrictions and safety protocols highlighted the need for home delivery services to reach our most vulnerable, homebound neighbors. During the pandemic, no contact home delivery models laid the groundwork for our continued work in this space. As economic pressures build, our neighbors with fixed incomes, high-risk health conditions, and limited access to reliable transportation are disproportionately impacted. Home delivery has given us an avenue by which we can serve hard to reach communities. We believe that the Delivering for Rural Seniors Act will help expand our work in delivering CSFP boxes and, in turn, reach more seniors with vital food supplies,” said Marcos Gaucin, Chief Programs Officer, St. Mary’s Food Bank. 

“The Delivering for Rural Seniors Act is a common sense answer to a distinct question: ‘How can food banks and state agencies ensure that a senior who is homebound or otherwise lacks transportation and support get access to a CSFP food box, especially when they live in one of Arizona’s many rural communities?’ AzFBN partners with food banks across the state, and hears the same message repeated from both food banks and the clients they serve—if a food box can’t be delivered to a vulnerable older Arizonan, that person won’t receive support. This Act will help food banks help more seniors. If passed, the impact will be dramatic and immediate,”said April Bradham, President and CEO, Arizona Food Bank Network (AzFBN). 

“No one should face hunger in their golden years. Yet, every state is home to seniors who experience food insecurity. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is critical to helping seniors with low incomes access the food they need to maintain good health. But the program doesn’t reach all eligible individuals, due to insufficient funding and a shortage of delivery options. The bipartisan Delivering for Rural Seniors Act introduced by Senators Kelly and Braun would help more seniors keep food on the table, especially in rural areas, by expanding access to delivery services. We urge Congress to help seniors facing hunger by including this important legislation in the final 2024 Farm Bill,” said Vince Hall, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America.

“Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity with one-third reporting cutting back on meals, buying cheaper and less nutritious foods, or skipping meals altogether. Transportation is an even greater impediment in rural communities that typically have no public transportation options at all. Addressing senior hunger in rural communities is complex, and we support efforts to promote food security and the health and well-being of seniors,”said Fred Glass, President, and CEO of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. 

“NCSFPA supports efforts to improve the ability to provide food packages to eligible individuals, including those proposed in the Delivering for Rural Seniors Act.  Some seniors who cannot get to food distribution sites depend upon the delivery of food packages to them and are in need of this assistance,” said the National Commodity Supplemental Food Program Association.  

Click here to read the text of the bill.