Hidden Cleveland

Excess cheese started commodities program

By SARALYN NORKUS saralyn.norkus@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 4/20/17

Believe it or not, the commodities program offered through the Bradley/Cleveland Community Services Agencies came to be because of cheese.

Too much cheese, to be exact.

Realizing that they …

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Hidden Cleveland

Excess cheese started commodities program

Posted

Believe it or not, the commodities program offered through the Bradley/Cleveland Community Services Agencies came to be because of cheese.

Too much cheese, to be exact.

Realizing that they had more cheese and other farming products sitting around in warehouses than they knew what to do with, the federal government created The Emergency Food Assistance Program in the early 1980s.

“The federal government had a surplus of cheese that they had stockpiled in warehouses. They needed to get rid of it, so they decided to give it to poor people,” said BCCSA program coordinator Jackie Westfield.

They started allocating cheese and other products, like butter.

Westfield helped start the Bradley County commodities program, or “her baby” as she jokingly called it, in 1981.

“When we first started the program we were serving approximately 2,500 households,” she recalled.

“The lines get long now sometimes, but the lines were really long back then. It was so much that we would even start serving them outdoors.”

TEFAP was meant to be a temporary program, but soon became a more permanent option.

“With the federal government, when you start a program it’s a little easier to keep it going than stop it,” Westfield said.

Since 1981, the BCCSA has been providing the commodities program, through which qualified families can come and receive staple food item every other month.

“A lot of people benefit from this and we have some people who say that they wouldn’t make it without (commodities),” she said.

“Many people think that the program isn’t available anymore because we don’t have cheese, but we’re still out here.”

Westfield explained that the food items handed out in commodities are meant to serve as staples.

“We get a good staple surplus that families can use.”

On average, the commodities distribution day serves anywhere from 600-750 households in the area.

“We’ve seen the numbers go down and don’t have the vast number we had when the program first started,” Westfield said.

“We’re starting to see those numbers come back up now.”

BCCSA has many canned food items, peanut butter, dry food items, and occasionally various juices.

TEFAP provides food and administrative funds to the states to supplement the diets of the low-income and elderly, so the food that shows up at BCCSA is determined by what the state buys and sends to them.

There are a number of ways that households can be certified to receive commodities:

— Be on food stamps

— Be qualified for Families First

— Live in public housing

— Have received fuel assistance from LIHEAP

— Be on Medicaid

— Live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Westfield added that households interested in receiving commodities can come the day of to get certified, and receive their first batch that same day.

The May distribution date has been bumped a week, and will be the morning of May 18.

“We’re still here, it’s still available and it’s providing good staple foods for families to have in case of an emergency crisis with their food funds.”

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