Anika Rychner knows there are seniors in Farmington and Rosemount who are struggling to get by. There are hundreds of seniors in Farmington and in Rosemount living near or below the poverty line.

Rychner, director of self-sufficiency for 360 Communities, knows there is help available for them, too. The challenge has been getting seniors to take advantage.

Second Harvest Heartland has offered its Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors - NAPS for short - for years through Farmington’s Rambling River Center, but recently moved it to the Farmington Food Shelf in hopes of reaching more seniors. There are 11 seniors currently enrolled.

In Rosemount, which has offered the NAPS program for the past four months at the 360 Communities Family Resource Center, there are 17 seniors enrolled.

“That’s a good number considering it’s a brand new program,” Rychner said. “I know they would love to serve more.”

To qualify for NAPS, seniors must be at least 60 years old and living at or below 130 percent of the poverty level, about $15,500 per year for a one-person household. Every month, participants get a box that includes fruit, vegetables, powdered milk, canned meat, dried beans, peanut butter, cereal, pasta or rice and two pounds of cheese. All of the food is provided by the federal government.

Second Harvest likes to connect the program to food shelves because it allows seniors who come in for NAPS to get connected to the rest of the food shelf’s services. Farmington Food Shelf volunteer Mary Langevin said two of the NAPS participants who came over when the program moved from the Rambling River Center have started receiving food shelf assistance in addition to the NAPS food.

“We’d like to have more people accessing both programs,” Langevin said.

360 Communities has made a push in recent months to expand participation in the program. Rosemount Family Resource Center coordinator Natalie Schmidgall has worked with that city’s senior center and with city leaders to bring in new people. In Farmington, food shelf volunteers are working with churches to identify residents who could use some help.

“It’s clear that we need to figure out better ways to outreach to seniors,” Rychner said. “They qualify for this food. It’s provided by the federal government. I think sometimes seniors are afraid to use food shelves because they think they might be taking food away from children. Nobody should worry about that. This is food specifically for seniors. People should feel welcome and encouraged.”

For more information about NAPS in Farmington, call 651-484-8241. Rosemount area residents can call the Family Resource Center at 651-322-5113.