Older Americans face cuts to gov't food aid

PLAINFIELD, N.J. - Every month, 68-year-old David Coleman comes to the lobby of his New Jersey low-income housing complex to pick up a box of 20 non-perishable food items worth about $50.

"This is not grocery shopping," Coleman tells CBS News correspondent Seth Doane, "but this is something that really helps."

He's one of 600,000 seniors nationwide who take part in what's called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. To qualify, seniors must earn less than $14,300 a year.

But, the program is in jeopardy, as Congress is looking at cutting some of its funding.

"I can think of things that Congress could probably cut back on," Coleman says. "But this is not one of them. People have to eat."

Food banks report surge in first timers

In the latest federal budget, the House proposed $800,000,000 in cuts to federal nutrition programs. If those cuts pass Congress later this year,150,000 food-box receipients would be dropped.

"I ask you, how would you make a decision around which elderly person would get a food box?" Vicki Escarra asks. "Who gets one and who doesn't? How do you make those kinds of decisions?"

Escarra runs "Feeding America," which provides emergency food aid to 200 food banks nationwide.

"We cannot do this by ourselves, we need support on these federal programs, and Congress has got to step up," Escarra says.

Coleman has lots of canned goods. He says "a lot of them" are from food banks. Of his retirement, Coleman says "Financially speaking, it's a strain."

One-third of those who use a food bank at least once a month are over the age of 60.

Fighting hunger in a land of plenty

With gas prices up 30 percent and groceries up 6 percent, it seems the only thing staying steady is Coleman's fixed income - just $1,000 monthly from Social Security.

"We are the backbone of this country, we helped to build this country," Coleman says. "And if we put in our 40, 50 years of work and hard work in this country - then don't just turn your back on us and throw us out to pasture."

Most here at the housing complex retired years ago. Going back to work isn't an option, but neither is going hungry.

  • Seth Doane

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