POMEROY — September is Hunger Action Month and an emphasis this year is on senior citizens who may have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
According to a recent report from the Area Agency on Aging 8 — of which Meigs County is a part — there are hundreds of older adults in Southeastern Ohio who are now experiencing what is called “food insecurity.”
What that means is they don’t know for sure where their next meal will come from.
This month communities are being asked to take action to help solve the hunger problem among elderly residents.
The Meigs County Council on Aging, along with the Meigs Cooperative Parish, church and other groups are doing a good job of reaching out to many of those seniors. The Senior Center with its Meals on Wheels Program today delivers nearly a hundred meals each week day to home-bound elderly residents around the county who fall into the food insecure category.
Beth Shaver, executive director, reports that funding under the Older Americans Act, has been increased slightly for next year and the expectation is that a few more slots for home delivered meals will become available.Right now, Shaver says all who qualify and have applied are being delivered meals, thanks to fund raisers and contributions from community organizations.
Meanwhile, seniors who are out and about can enjoy congregate meals at the Senior Center where they can eat for a small donation or nothing at all. It is requested that individuals call the center around 9 a.m. if they plan to come to eat so that the kitchen staff can better judge how much food to prepare. However, calling in advance is not necessary, Shaver said.
The Meigs Cooperative Parish has a general food distribution program for the elderly and other residents, to which businesses and organizations contribute through food collection and fund raising programs. Several community churches offer free meals once or twice a week to anyone who comes but still there are many elderly people who are unable, or too proud, to seek out sources for food.
Sometimes, it is just a lack of knowing what is available and how to access assistance. An emphasis of this month is on getting the word out to the people in need about what resources are available and how they can access them.
The Area Agency wants the community to know that most food insecure seniors may be eligible for savings programs through Medicare to help with prescription costs thereby leaving money for food, or for food products through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Statistics released by the National Center on Aging, show that only one in three eligible older adults is enrolled in SNAP. In many cases the reason for that is thatseniors are less likely to know what they might qualify for or how to apply and have doubts about the value of the benefit, or simply find the application process too confusing.
Steps are currently being taken by the Area Agency on Aging to address the problems and connect the elderly to community resources that can best meet their individual needs.
Seniors who are having difficulty handling their food and medicine costs are encouraged to contact the Meigs County Council on Aging, 992-2161, or the Area Agency 8 at 1-800-331-2644 for information and/or assistance on how to get help.
Area Agency 8 Director Rick Hindman said that his staff can help direct seniors and caregivers to nutrition services in the community. This month efforts to help draw attention to community resources are being expanded and assistance to seniors is being offered. He pointed out that some seniors have had to choose between buying food and paying utility bills because they were not aware of support programs available to them. He stressed that information and assistance is available and he encouraged seniors to seek the help they need.