Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is administered by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the federal level and attempts to supply seniors with nutritious foods each month.

While the Commodity Food Program is only authorized to operate in 49 states (all states minus Alabama), the program reaches thousands of seniors annually and can connect them to invaluable nutritional resources to enable them to make healthier food choices. Because the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for seniors seeks to reduce the threat of poor nutrition among older populations, however, seniors must demonstrate nutritional need and meet other eligibility criteria.

The following sections explain everything seniors need to know about the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and how they may utilize the benefits of the program. Additionally, seniors can learn how to apply to CSFP in their state and ensure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled. Since seniors are a population at a high risk of experiencing poor nutrition due to their limited mobility and access to food products, this program helps protect the health of seniors by providing them food right to their doorsteps.

What is CSFP?

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program operates through state agencies that regulate the programs on a state-level. States receive a total of approximately $240 million per year, depending on federal allocations for the Commodity Food Program and any remaining funds from previous years. Then, states use the funds to distribute foods, provide nutrition education and offer referrals to other welfare, nutrition and healthcare programs meant for seniors.

For qualifying seniors, this service is offered to them at no cost and can only supplement their total grocery needs without sacrificing their other benefits (if any). Seniors should use the Commodity Supplemental Food Program in conjunction with healthy eating practices to lead healthier lives and become more independent.

CSFP Eligibility

Local state agencies are responsible for determining CSFP eligibility for all their applicants. To be eligible for the Commodity Food Program, seniors must be living in a U.S. state or on an Indian reservation that participates in the program. Additionally, seniors must meet age and income guidelines to qualify for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and apply for the program in a timely manner.

Seniors must be 60 years old or older to receive benefits and have a household income 130 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines or less. The following income requirements may apply to senior applicants based on their household size:

Household Size Maximum Annual Income
1 $15,782
2 $21,398
3 $27,014
4 $32,630
5 $38,246
6 $43,862
7 $49,478
8 $55,094

Each additional household member will add $5,616 to the senior’s maximum annual income limit. In some instances, states may require seniors to be assessed by medical professionals to determine their nutritional need as participants of CSFP must be considered at a nutritional risk.

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These examinations may be performed at physicians’ offices or at local state agencies, depending on the wishes of the applicant and the state requirements. However, examinations may not always be necessary if seniors can provide sufficient proof of their nutritional need with evidence of previous medical tests, for example.

Note: The posted income limits may differ for senior residents in AK and HI, and states may impose specific income requirements that differ from national income guidelines. Participation in other supplemental food programs for seniors may serve as proof of eligibility in the program in some states.

How to Apply to CSFP

State distributing agencies (SDAs) for the state in which seniors reside may provide information on the recommended CSFP application process. Seniors may visit the FNS’ website to find a searchable list of food distribution contacts by state and area with all necessary contact details of each agency.

CSFP Benefits

Commodity supplemental food benefits are delivered in the form of packages. A list of the foods approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that beneficiaries of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program may receive in food packages is provided below:

  • Apple juice
  • Applesauce
  • Apricots
  • Cranberry apple juice
  • Grape juice
  • Mixed fruit (canned)
  • Orange juice
  • Peaches (canned)
  • Pears (canned)
  • Plums (canned)
  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Beef chili
  • Beef stew
  • Chicken (canned)
  • Peanut butter
  • Salmon (canned)
  • Tuna (canned)
  • Cheese
  • Milk (shelf-stable)
  • Carrots (canned)
  • Green beans (canned)
  • Corn (canned)
  • Peas (canned)
  • Potatoes (canned)
  • Spinach (canned)
  • Tomato juice
  • Tomatoes (canned)
  • Cereal
  • Grits
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Rice

Each package contains food items designed with elderly nutrition in mind and may vary in sizes. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program tries to offer seniors foods from each essential food group including fruits, proteins, dairy, vegetables and grains. These foods are often unsweetened, lightly sweetened, low-fat or low-sodium and feature whole grains. In addition to food benefits, seniors may be eligible for nutritional and financial resources. An explanation of the types of nutritional resources seniors can find are as follows:

  • Recommended daily intakes. In guides such as Eat Smart, Live Strong, seniors are advised to consume over three cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Physical activity guidelines for older adults. According to recent research, seniors should get about 30 minutes of exercise as many days as possible each week.
  • How to create healthy meals. Healthy recipes and tips on selecting healthy meals for seniors and their families.
  • How to budget effectively. Information on budgeting for weekly groceries and produce are provided in online lessons and websites such as Making Your Food Dollars Work by Purdue University.
  • Safe food storing and preparation. Seniors should remove questionable food items from their fridges and pantries to avoid the risk of food poisoning and wash their hands after touching raw meat products.

The information supplied by the Commodity Supplemental Food Program is available to seniors in multiple forms and is mostly free. Websites, comprehensive lessons, presentations and program information is compiled in easy-to-find lists on the CSFP official site and clearly lists all potential costs of the resources. Seniors are encouraged to review any content before purchasing it and to seek out additional information from their state agencies.

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