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Food commodities help families stretch income

Staff writer

(Editor’s note: This is a third story in a series about government-funded food programs available to residents.)

Johnney Harold, of Ramona, is grateful for U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities distributed at senior centers throughout the county.

“They’re the difference between some days having something to eat or not,” Harold said.

Neither he nor his wife, Angel Harold, are able to work. He is on disability and she is struggling to get on worker’s compensation. Medical bills make living on a fixed income challenging.

The Harolds picked up a box of food Thursday at Ramona Senior Center. Schedules for distributing commodities are not set, volunteer Darlene Sondergard said. They have been distributed once every two months in 2009 but only four times in 2008.

The foods provided Thursday included peanut butter, dried milk and eggs, canned peas, canned applesauce, canned mixed fruit, canned chicken, canned tuna, and canned orange juice. The foods differ from one distribution to the next, Sondergard said.

The food program is limited to households below a certain income level, depending on family size. For a single individual, the limit is $1,174 per month. The limit increases by about $405 for each additional person.

People have different reasons for using the commodity program, she said. Some are senior citizens with a fixed income, but others are young families who have yet to establish themselves.

About 20 households in and around Ramona participate in the commodities program.

“It takes care of quite a few youngsters,” Sondergard said.

Johnney Harold said the extra food is a great boon when his grandchildren visit.

“My check only stretches so far,” he said. “These commodities, they come in really handy.”

Last modified Sept. 17, 2009

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