“PANTRY STRETCHER” FOOD BOXES DELIVERED TO RESIDENTS

The Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities in the Department of Health and Human Services launched a pilot program this holiday season to deliver boxes of non-perishable food to residents who need help stretching their end-of-month budgets.

The pilot project – called “Pantry Stretcher” – is designed to help seniors and the disabled who may have difficulty getting to a food bank, face medical bills, are not eligible for Meals on Wheels, or for other reasons need a little help stretching what they have in their pantry until their next check.

“Quite frankly, we hear too often about seniors who are have to choose between filling a prescription and buying food,” said Freeholder Director Bob Vanderslice. “We started to discuss how we could help when our public health nurses would come back from home visits, go to a local food bank, and go right back out to the home with a bag of groceries. In our County, we have seniors who want to remain independent but have trouble getting around, especially in our more rural townships, and can’t make ends meet that last week before the social security check arrives.”

The program goal is to hand deliver food to 60 homes once a month, creating a weekly route of 15 homes. A three-way partnership is making the pilot program possible that began last week.

“The problem in getting food to the people who need it has always been distribution – how do you move the food?” said Freeholder Vanderslice. “We have formed a partnership that will work.”

The County Department of Health & Human Services, which could identify people needing help, began talks with the Food Bank of South Jersey, which could provide the food. Mid Atlantic States Career and Education Center headquarter in Pennsville entered the partnership to send a driver to the Food Bank in Pennsauken to pick up the boxes and bring them back to the Office on Aging, whose staff could make the home visit.

“We just finished our second week, and the people we visited were so grateful,” said Director Vanderslice. “We already have two of our four routes filled with 32 homes. In addition, as we visit our seniors and disabled, we will be able to have a public health nurse take part to do health screenings. This is a very exciting chance for us to help in a meaningful way.”

For more information, contact the Office on Aging & Disabilities at 339-8622.