Cass second in state with senior food program

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass is about to become the second county in Michigan after Genesee in the Flint area with a program designed to make it easier for senior citizens to buy food.
Genesee County was one of only six such pilot programs in the United States primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a grant to the Family Independence Agency (FIA) and the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging.
MiCAFE -- Michigan's Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly -- in January will bring resources already available to the Dowagiac Housing Commission and the county Council on Aging (COA), where seniors are already congregating and feel comfortable, and where trained staff and volunteers can lighten the burden of completing confusing paperwork.
Nationwide, MiCAFE Project Manager Candice M. Janiczek of Elder Law of Michigan said in a visit from Lansing to the county Board of Commissioners in Cassopolis Thursday, only 30 percent of seniors eligible for grocery help enroll in the program.
Eligibility depends on income and expenses, including medical care, property taxes and utility bills.
Seniors tend to think someone else needs the money more.
Janiczek, who attended Saint Mary's College -- "it's nice to be back in my old neighborhood" -- said the Genesee demonstration project marked its first anniversary in October.
Benefits average $60 a month, but can range from $10 to more than $100. Genesee County has 12 sites.
The average benefit for a senior (age 60 and older) household is $60 a month. We're estimating that in one year we'll bring in approximately $180,000 in federal benefits into the county that otherwise would have gone unclaimed.

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