The Commodity Supplemental Food Program: Is It for You?


The Commodity Supplemental Food Program: Is It for You?

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Are you a Solo Mom over 60 in economic need? Then you might qualify.

It can be a challenge to provide nutritious food for your entire family when you are on a limited income. With all the other bills to pay, how can you afford it? If you find yourself asking this question, and if you or a family member is over the age of 60, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) may be a valuable resource. What is CSFP? It is a federal governmental program that seeks to supplement the diets of the elderly with nutritious food. Below are some answers to questions you may have about this program.

Do I qualify?

If you are over the age of 60, meet the income requirement, and live in one of the 47 participating states, you may qualify.

I’ve heard that pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women also qualify for this program?

That is true, but only if you applied to participate in CSFP on or before February 7, 2014. The Agricultural Act of 2014 phased out the eligibility of anyone under the age of 60, so if you did not apply before February 7, 2014, you cannot be certified for this program.

What about children under the age of six?

The Agricultural Act of 2014 phased out children as well, so the above is also true for children under the age of six.

What is the income requirement?

Here are the CSFP Income Guidelines. People over 60 must be at or below 130% of the poverty line. Generally, already certified women and children must be at or below 185% of the poverty line. However, participating states are required to consider already certified women and children income-eligible regardless of actual income, “including those individuals who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Medicaid benefits.”

Which states participate?

Not every state participates. The District of Columbia and two Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs)—Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota and Oglala Sioux Reservation in South Dakota—participate, as well as these 47 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.

Where can I find out more information about CSFP in my state?

Here is a list of CSFP contacts.

How does this program work?

The program is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA gives the participating states and ITOs both food and administrative funds. Then the individual participating states service people directly.

Who determines my eligibility?

Local departments of health, social services, education, or agriculture determine your eligibility.

So how does it work? What do I actually get?

Once you are certified, the local department that certified you will give you packets of food. The USDA uses its buying power to acquire food at a lower price. Each packet of food has an approximate value of $50, but each is acquired at $20.

What are in these packets of food?

They include a variety of foods that contain nutrients that have been identified as important in preventing health issues, such as juice, farina, oats, ready-to-eat cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, canned meats, canned, fruits, canned vegetables, and nonfat dry milk. Here is a list of foods available for CSFP. Also, check out recipes that use these nutrient-dense foods.

Do the packets provide a complete diet?

The food packets are not meant to provide a complete diet. They are meant to supplement a diet with important nutrients.

Can I send someone to pick up the packets for me?

Yes. There is a form that allows you to designate someone to be your proxy.

What if I don’t pick up my packets?

Your product will be given to someone else. You will be removed from the program if you miss two months in a row.

Can I participate in food cupboards or other food-relief programs if I am on CSFP?

Yes. However, this program is meant for those who can independently prepare meals, so it cannot be used in conjunction with Meals on Wheels, which is a program that provides prepared meals.

What programs are available for me if I do not qualify for this one?

You may qualify for other nutrition-assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). On ESME.com, you can find Julia Liu’s article that explains food assistance for Solo Moms, as well as “The Dos and Don’ts of Financial Assistance,” an excellent article by Stephanie Land.

Sometimes the stigma associated with food-assistance programs can give Solo Moms pause in applying for one, yet it shouldn’t. These programs exist for no other reason but to help us support our families. We should take pride in the fact that we access all available resources to ensure the best possible quality of life for everyone in the house.


Mika Yamamoto, ESME's Guide for Public Assistance, has successfully nurtured two children as a Solo Mom and now hopes to achieve the same results as a plant nanny.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.


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