A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Brown Bag Program

Last Revised: Jan 26, 2010 - Initial Posting: Dec 15, 2004

The Capital Area Food Bank sponsors the Senior Brown Bag Program to supplement the existing food budgets for low-income households through the distribution of nutritious food to community pick-up locations.


The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) administers the Senior Brown Bag Program, which provides supplemental food and non-food items for seniors.  Community groups and agencies coordinate monthly pick-up locations.  The program also offers the opportunity for socialization, community building, health screenings, and nutrition education.

A Brown Bag Program guide has information and materials on developing and operating a BBP.  CAFB delivers pre-packaged bags of surplus food and non-food items to a variety of community sites.  Locations include churches, community centers, public and subsidized apartment complexes, and outside agencies.  A site application must be completed and approved in order to become a BBP location.

Each location must have a designated site coordinator to handle distribution day procedures.  The program operates one day per month for approximately 3 to 4 hours.  Space is needed to set up tables and to distribute the brown bags.  Volunteers arrive early to organize the brown bags once they are received from CAFB.  Some sites also arrange for delivery of bags by volunteers to homebound persons.  Any bags remaining after the distribution may be redistributed only to other eligible participants of the program.

CAFB orders items for BBP that are designated for fast track distribution since the program is able to move this type of product more quickly and with less waste.  Fresh produce is also distributed with the brown bag items.

Those eligible for BBP are adults 55 years and older, 50 if disabled,  who are currently enrolled in one of the following entitlement programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid.  If not enrolled in one of the above programs, Individuals may also be eligible based on the Federal Income guidelines for the current fiscal year.

Participants must complete an application form for eligibility determination.  A voluntary $10.00 annual fee is charged and opportunities to volunteer are provided to provide clients with the chance to contribute something toward the cost.  The fee is waived if for any reason noted by the client it cannot be paid.

The site coordinator must complete a Household Distribution Sheet.  CAFB personnel then summarize this information on a Monthly Work Sheet.

Special events such as health screenings, cooking demonstrations, and nutrition workshops may also be planned in conjunction with brown bag distributions.  This might include preparing dishes with items included in the brown bags.


CAFB Brown Bag Program Sites FY2007-2008As of 2016, there were 75 CAFB Brown Bag sites serving 4,178 seniors.

CAFB had partnerships with groups at 40 sites in FY08 and served 1,732 seniors each month through the Brown Bag Program.

Bringing in the Birds with Bucks is a story featured on the CAFB Blog that describes the importance of the Brown Bag Program.


Kirsse Zemedhun, Brown Bag Coordinator