Distribution of food to Idyllwild seniors by Second Harvest Food Bank and Feeding America of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties has been discontinued.
The longstanding program, hosted at the Mormon Church in Idyllwild, had two components — a senior food distribution with no economic qualification and a USDA Commodity Program with certain guidelines and restrictions. It is the senior program that is discontinued; the USDA food distributionwill continue.
According to Vanessa Rangel-Mercado at Feeding America in Riverside, the USDA program stipulates its food cannot be distributed with food from any other program.
Arguably, with adequate numbers of volunteers and the infrastructure to separate the distribution programs, distribution to seniors could continue.
Rangel-Mercado indicated that Idyllwild volunteer coordinators said they lacked the volunteer base to separate the programs into two components so that the food would not be mixed together. That could be done, said Rangel-Mercado, in a number of ways — either with distribution of the two programs on the same day at different times, or in totally separate distribution lines and boxes, or on separate days. “Our CEO in his visit to Idyllwild saw that the volunteers were putting food from the different programs in the same boxes and that is completely against the regulations,” she noted.
Rangel-Mercado stressed the decision to suspend the senior food distribution was not made by Feeding America but by local coordinators. She said the local coordinator, Dennis Byers, said it would make distribution “so much easier” if there were only one program — the USDA Commodities Program — to distribute. “If they do not have the volunteers, it’s up to them,” she said.
Rangel-Mercado indicated seniors could still receive food through the USDA Commodities Program if they qualified economically. The USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program provides commodities to a network of agency partner sites in Riverside County for distribution to eligible individuals and households. In order to be eligible for USDA Commodities, a recipient or household must reside in the geographical area being served and meet established income guidelines. Under no circumstances shall a recipient be required to make any type of payment in money, materials or services of any kind in connection with the receipt of USDA commodities. Income eligibility is available on the Feeding America website — for one person, $1,396 monthly or $16,775 annually; for two, $1,891 monthly or $22,695 annually; for three, $2,386 monthly or $28,635 annually; and for four, $2,881 monthly or $34,575 annually.
For more information about Feeding America, visit www.feedingamericaie.org.