RUMFORD — The River Valley’s Community Supplemental Food Program is experiencing robust interest in its second year of operation.

There is so much interest in the federal-state partnership hunger alleviation program, which provides nutritious food and dietary guidance to low-income seniors, that the waiting list is more than 200 and growing, said Sandra Witas of the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition.

The coalition teamed up with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service two years ago, when the Community Supplemental Food Program got federal funding to expand to Maine. The program provides monthly allotments of food and dietary advice to specific groups.

On the second Wednesday of each month, Witas joins Katie Chaisson of the Extension Service and a group of volunteers outside the Healthy Communities Coalition office on River Street to distribute 30-pound food packages to qualified recipients.

“Each food package usually contains healthy foods such as cheese, grains, rice and fruit juices,” Witas said.

Besides the 46 food packages, nutritional information is distributed by Chaisson and a food-tasting table is set up for clients to sample dishes.

The Community Supplemental Food Program was created by Congress and is the nation’s first food assistance program to address hunger in specific population groups on a monthly basis.

The focus groups include pregnant and post-partum women, children under 6 and seniors over 60 who have demonstrated that they are at nutritional risk. Nearly 90 percent of recipients are seniors.

The food program was initiated and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which buys nutrient-rich foods at wholesale prices and promotes nutritional education at the various food outlet sites.

“In Oxford County, we serve 96 clients at our South Paris distribution center and 45 here in Rumford,” Witas said. “We are taking applications for the program.”

For more information, contact the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition at 364-7408.

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