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Charity program is in danger of losing money

Donna Volz has food for the needy she can't give away. While state budget cuts threaten programs such as Meals on Wheels and other programs for the aging population, Volz said one community food program is at risk of losing funds because not enough people are picking up food.

"I've got the food, and I know we've got people out there who need it," said Volz, director of community services for United Methodist Open Door.

Currently, Volz said she could serve 300 more people in 10 counties through Open Door's Commodity Supplemental Food Program for people over 60 or younger mothers.

Federal funds distributed through the state provide monthly boxes of food for 2,100 people. But only 1,800 people are being served. Seniors can get this food even if they qualify for other food programs, Volz said.

"If we don't give the food away, we could lose it, then it would be hard to get it back," Volz said.

People who qualify must be over 60, or children between 1 and 6 years old, or a woman who has had a baby within the past year and is not enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program.

This is one federal program that has survived budget cuts, Volz said. Now the money may disappear because the organization can't get the food to those who need it.

"We've lobbied to keep this money and succeeded," Volz said. "Now we could lose it after all that."

Part of the dwindling number comes from a changing senior population. Some die. Some forget to pick up their food. Others are just too proud.

"Some of our seniors will come here when they won't go to our other programs," Volz said. "Because this is government money, it seems less like charity."

Erline Barber, 65, said the box of food she picks up helps her stay independent.

"If it didn't help me, I sure wouldn't hobble down here every month to pick it up," Barber said. "I appreciate it so much because I don't have the money to get the extras for myself."

The boxes contain cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, and cheese.

"If you've got a can of tuna, you can always make something," Barber said.

Food boxes are being given out through Thursday at 1545 N. Mosley, from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1:15 to 3 p.m. They will also be given out in May and June.

"If anyone knows of someone who can benefit from this, you can always steer them our way," Volz said. "I don't think a lot of people know they can do that."

Income guidelines for seniors include individuals who have a monthly gross income of $1,173 or less or couples earning $1,579 or less.

"But in families, every individual who qualifies receives their own box of food," Volz said.

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