Minnesota Hospital Association


January 23, 2018

Nutritional Assistance Program for seniors helps simplify food shelf access

In August 2016, Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield (MCHS-Springfield) dietitian Linda Carruthers made a visit to the Springfield food shelf to provide education to the clients. At the end of the session she noticed some boxes stacked on a table. The food shelf manager explained that these unclaimed boxes of food were for Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS) participants. NAPS is a USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program designed to provide nutritious food products each month at no cost to eligible individuals over the age of 60.    

The boxes had not been claimed by the participants for a variety of reasons. For some, the 30-pound boxes were too heavy to carry. Others were unable to access transportation to pick up the box or their proxy was unable to pick up the box at the designated times. As a result, these participants were unable to receive nutritious items such as cereal; canned fruits, vegetables and meat; shelf-stable milk; fruit juice; peanut butter; pasta; and cheese.   

Carruthers met with Scott Thoreson, administrator at MCHS-Springfield, to discuss the possibility of MCHS-Springfield staff delivering boxes to the people who were unable to pick them up. Thoreson agreed that the hospital should get involved with the project. Carruthers began visiting local senior living complexes promoting NAPS and the delivery program. She also informed clients who were her patients in the clinic setting of the opportunity.   

In October 2016, MCHS-Springfield collaborated with the food shelf and became proxies for some of the participants to begin the delivery program began. Carruthers and Michael Berberich from the MCHS-Springfield maintenance department collected the boxes at the food shelf, loaded them into the hospital van and delivered them to participants. The number of deliveries the first few months was five; one year later, 10 to 12 deliveries are made each month, which takes about two hours to accomplish. The cost of making deliveries is about $1,200 per year.    

By delivering NAPS boxes, MCHS-Springfield has improved access to healthy food for a population that was unable to obtain it. During the monthly food deliveries, nutrition tips are shared for how to use the items in the box. The delivery volunteers have formed relationships with box recipients while providing a friendly visit, which the seniors greatly appreciate.