LOGAN — Help is needed to make sure every senior in Hocking County can take advantage of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program as demand has exceeded funding — leaving many on a waiting list.
Buckeye Hills Regional Council Communications Director Gwynn Stewart said the program helps income eligible seniors enjoy nutritious fresh, seasonal foods. Furthermore, she pointed out that those out and about at the market bring a social component — helping seniors interact with others in the community.
Those who qualify receive coupons worth $50 to buy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey. The coupons for food mean the world to individuals who are on a limited income like Mary Culp.
Culp, who lives in Hocking County, said originally she was first placed on a waiting list but has deeply appreciated the fresh produce over the past three or four years.
“It’s been a great help. Last year I got fresh peaches, fresh apples and honey. I have used the honey all winter on toast and different things,” Culp stated.
In order to keep people from being on a waiting list, there is an effort being made for community members to step up to support the Sponsor a Senior program.
“We decided to create the Sponsor a Senior program and ask the community to help us meet the demand for Senior Farmers’ Market Coupons in the form of donations. A donation of $50 will sponsor one of the 500-plus seniors in Southeast Ohio on the current waiting list for Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons,” Aging Director Jennifer Westfall commented.
In 2017, there were 39 from Hocking County on the wait list and 433 in the region, according to the Buckeye Hills Regional Council. Every little bit helps as donations led to 127 seniors being taken off the waiting list last year.
So far this year, there are no Hocking County residents on the waiting list but it could change.
Stewart communicated that it was reported by the Center for Community Solutions that food insecurity, for those 60 and older, is a growing problem in Ohio, and more than one-in-six older adults face the threat of hunger
She further explained that through Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Program (HAPCAP), seniors can get fresh produce at the Scenic Hills Senior Center or delivered with their home-delivered meals.
The director said the Urban Farm at Southeast Ohio Regional Foodbank and Kitchen will help seniors gain access to fresh produce.
Buckeye Hills Regional Council Program Manager Cathy Ash communicated that the funding for the program is through the Ohio Department of Aging and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Buckeye Hills contracts with local farmers and vendors who supply locally grown produce. The coupons can be redeemed at participating program farmer locations that provide the food options,” Ash stated.
Ash continued by sharing that the donations can also support the Project Lifesaver Program. Project Lifesaver technology helps find people with a cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease or Autism when they become lost, according to Ash.
She explained that the clients are outfitted with a transmitter about the size of a watch that is worn on the wrist or ankle. If the client wanders off, authorities can search for them with special equipment.
“Without the technology, searches can last hours or days,” Ash continued. “Through community donations, the program is offered free to seniors and $350 will sponsor one enrollee on the Project Lifesaver Program.”
Buckeye Hills Regional Council serves multiple counties and if people choose to donate, they can specify that the money stay in Hocking County.
For those interested in applying for the vouchers for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, stop by the Scenic Hills Senior Center, 187 S. Spring St., to pick up a form.