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Community Action Agency Delivers Food Essentials to Low Income Seniors

November 6, 2012

This is the twelfth in a series of articles on agencies that participate in the Midland County Continuum of Care.

Almost every working day of the month trucks drive away from Mid Michigan Community Action Agency’s (MMCAA) warehouse at a former lumber yard just west of Clare. The trucks are loaded with boxes of food essentials for delivery to one of many pickup points in ten central Michigan locations, including Midland County.

At the end of the month the trucks will have carried more than 3,700 of the boxes to low-income seniors and mothers with young children.

Sharla Mitchell

On two days of the month the trucks come to Midland County and stop at West Michigan Family Center and the Midland Evangelical Free Church. Eligible recipients come to either of the sites where volunteers pass out approximately 360 of the boxes designated for Midland County, according to Sharla Mitchell, a 28-year employee of MMCAA, who has managed the nutrition program for 12 years.

Senior Services (Midland County Council on Aging) volunteers deliver the boxes to Charter Square, Cleveland Manor, Greenhills, and Washington Woods to those who are unable to get to the distribution sites.

Special education students pack food boxes at MMCAA warehouse.

The boxes of food, packed by special education students from the Clare-Gladwin Regional Educational District, contain cheese, cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, peanut butter, non-fat dry and evaporated milk, and juices. “The program has become much more nutrition-conscious in recent years,” Mitchell said. “The items have lower sodium and contain less sugar and fat than before.”

The distribution is made possible by a United States Department of Agriculture effort called The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) adopted by Congress in the 1970’s. CSFP is a Federally-funded program to supplement the diets of low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, other new mothers up to one year postpartum, infants, children up to age six, and elderly people 60 years and above.

Seniors make up 90% of the recipients, MItchell said. Household size and household monthly income determine eligibility. For example, the income of a senior living alone may not exceed $1,210 per month. For a mother and two children under 6 the income limit is $2,943 per month.

Without local cooperation and volunteers the program wouldn’t work. “I don’t know what we’d do without churches and lodges like the Eagles, the VFW, who let us use their parking lots and facilities,” said Mitchell. “We get great cooperation.”

Word of the program is spread through advertising, world of mouth, flyers, and referrals from other human service agencies. Nevertheless, the number of recipients has declined somewhat. “The income eligibility requirements have been tightened,” Mitchell said.

Managing the huge stock of food filling the warehouse is a big job, requiring advance planning and ordering. “Fruit juices, for example, must be ordered a year and a half ahead of time so the growers can plan ahead, ” said Mitchell. “The same is true of pasta, beans, cheese, and cereals.”

Food items not needed for the regular monthly operation do not go to waste. They are given to food pantries throughout the MMCAA service area.

MMCAA participates in Midland County Continuum of Care, a collaboration of more than 20 agencies working to prevent homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

MMCAA website:


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