By Pete Soyer
The cost of living can become higher as people grow older, but a program giving food to older residents is helping ease that cost.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program has been helping seniors since 1969. The program provides food for people in Havre who are over 60 and have a monthly income of $931 for a one-person household and $1,259 for a two-person household.
Evelyn Havskjold, Hill County's director for aging, said senior citizens spend an average of $600 a month on medication, and the commodities program is the government's way of helping out.
The food is distributed every third Friday of the month at Havre's Senior Center. Before seniors can pick up the food, they need to fill out an application and make sure they qualify for it.
Other senior centers on the Hi-Line also make the food available.
Havskjold said if seniors have an emergency and need food before the third Friday, the senior center won't turn them away.
The food comes from Montana's Food Distribution Bureau, Havskjold said.
Gordon Davidson, program manager for Montana's Food Distribution Bureau, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture buys surplus food from vendors around the country. The food is given to different states to be given to older citizens who need it.
He said the program provided food for about 3,500 Montana seniors in May and the numbers are growing.
A senior receives about 35 pounds of food a monthso that adds up to about 122,500 pounds of food given out to seniors in a month.
Since the program started, 27 states have joined and more states are applying now, Davidson said.
Montana has only been in the program since June of 2000, Davidson said.
Vendors who contract with USDA to supply surplus food ship the food directly to the participating states. When the food is shipped to Montana, it goes to the Food Distribution Bureau in Helena and is stored in a warehouse. Individual agencies from around the state send in orders for the food they need and then the bureau ships the food to the agency, Davidson said.
There are no set regulations for what food is sent and when it has to be distributed, Davidson said. The bureau lets "the local agencies decide what would work best for their seniors."