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USDA expands nutrition assistance for seniors amid pandemic with rescue plan funding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is increasing food assistance to low-income seniors — a population that has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic — by providing nearly $37 million in additional support to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. States and Tribal nations will receive the new funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to serve additional seniors, in addition to up to $2.6 million in administrative funds from a previous COVID relief bill.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the hunger crisis in America, but help is on the way,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By expanding the reach of CSFP and providing additional support to the states and tribes that administer the program, USDA is helping ensure that no senior has to worry where their next meal will come from.”

The American Rescue Plan funding allows USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to expand the reach of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program by fulfilling all 2021 requests from states to serve more seniors and adding the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes to the program. FNS will also make up to $2.6 million from the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 available for states and Tribal nations to support increased administrative costs resulting from the pandemic.

In addition, Food and Nutrition Service is ensuring those who rely on the Commodity Supplemental Food Program don’t unintentionally lose access to their benefits due to the financial relief they receive through the American Rescue Plan. Food and Nutrition Service is providing guidance to states and Tribal nations to exclude stimulus funds and child tax credits provided by the American Rescue Plan from income when determining eligibility for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The same exclusion applies across the other federal nutrition assistance programs including SNAP, WIC, child nutrition programs, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides nutritious, domestically-sourced USDA Foods to low-income persons 60 years or older. This expansion, along with similar actions in other nutrition programs including SNAP that serve this population, will help combat food insecurity among seniors during the pandemic.