By Daniel Nash
Medical professionals have long recommended eating fruits and vegetables, but the Sumner Senior Center made sure of it Oct. 14. The center distributed 100 boxes of produce to low-income seniors.
Each box weighed close to 20 pounds and was filled to the brim with fresh squash, cabbage, beets, celery, pumpkins and apples.
“We hoped to get corn as well, but it’s just out of season,” senior services adviser Linda Clerget said. “We wanted to put in what was fresh.”
The produce was boxed and supplied by Richter Farms, which supplies its goods to larger grocers like Safeway and Fred Meyer.
It is the fourth year the distribution has taken place. Distribution was sponsored by the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney helped get the program off the ground, Clerget said.
In addition to receiving produce from large suppliers, the senior center received and distributed 40 produce vouchers in July. Vouchers can be redeemed at farmers’ markets in Tacoma and the surrounding suburbs through the end of October. They cannot be used to purchase items like bread, milk, cheese, eggs or even produce-related items like dried fruit, jellies or jams.
The boxes were intended for seniors living below the federal poverty level, which is set $10,830 for a single person, with an added $3,740 for each additional household member. However, the distribution only required that seniors supply identification proving Washington state residency.
“It’s basically done on an honor system,” Clerget said. “We trust that our members are honest enough to take a box when they really need it.”
The produce came at an estimated $20 value, and Clerget figured the food would last about two weeks, a big help for a household on a fixed income, she said.
The food was distributed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. By 11 a.m. the senior center had already offloaded nearly half the boxes.
Denise Schultz helped a non-English speaking member of the center. By directing him to the back room and helping him with the signout form, he was able to get his produce in less than three words.
Bob and Lois Woods made sure to arrive early to pick up their box. The couple lives on the north side of Sumner, which Bob remembered from when it was still largely farmland, before it became industrialized.
“I think (picking up a box) helps the farmers get some compensation for their crops,” he said. “And of course vegetables are good for you, so why not?”