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The Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio has received a second national award for its public awareness campaign about senior citizens with insufficient food supplies.
The regional office won its first Aging Achievement Award for its Seeking Solutions for Senior Hunger initiative in 2013. This month, it became one of 44 groups given the award at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s convention in Dallas.
The association lauded the local agency for its collaboration on anti-hunger programs with partners such as ProMedica, Buckeye Community Health Plan, and several food agencies, according to Rebecca Liebes, the Northwest Ohio group’s director of nutrition and wellness.
The office distributes $2.8 million annually to meal providers across 10 counties in Ohio to provide 7,500 people with free meals, though there is a suggested donation of between $1.75 and $3.00 per meal. The majority of the individuals go to senior centers or dining sites, though 3,500 receive meals at home.
The agency on aging campaign launched in April 2013 with a 10-minute YouTube video that featured a senior citizen who functioned on less than 500 calories, and another who skipped meals to pay for medication. That same month, the group made hunger the focus of an annual legislative meeting in Maumee attended by 175 people, including numerous government officials.
“Unless there’s somebody knocking on that homebound senior’s door ... to get them talking about what their struggles are, it's a problem that really goes unnoticed and addressed,” said Justin Moor, vice president of planning and program development for the Northwest Ohio office.
In Lucas County, the agency on aging collaborates with groups such as Simply EZ, Mobile Meals of Toledo, and the Lyman W. Liggins Nutrition Program to provide frozen or hot meals. A one-year $75,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation will allow between 75 and 100 additional people to receive home-delivered meals starting this month.
Margaret Blackman, 80, signed up for meals in 2013, in part because of the reduction in her monthly food stamp dollars. The pension money she receives goes toward rent, utilities, and medical expenses. While relatives drive her to the grocery store to pick up breakfast supplies, the five frozen meals she gets from Lyman W. Liggins each week constitute a large part of her diet.
“I make it stretch,” she said of her food supply, when social worker Donnetta Carter came to renew her annual meal certification.
Ohio’s senior citizen population is on the rise and, according to Ms. Liebes, funding from the Older Americans Act and other sources has not kept up with the increase in demand for food assistance and the cost of providing it. In Lucas County, the Scripps Gerontology Center projected that people 60 and older would be 22.3 percent of the population by 2020, up from 18.5 percent in 2010.
“They’re becoming malnourished because they don't want to ask for help,” Ms. Liebes said of the senior citizens.
Maureen Stevens, the executive director of Mobile Meals, said the agency on aging’s town hall forum in April, which was broadcast on WGTE, brought attention to the need for additional funding.
Lucas County commissioners are scheduled to vote next week on whether to place the agency’s request to renew its five-year 0.45-mill levy with an 0.15 mill increase on the November ballot.
“The senior population is ... just going to continue to grow with the Baby Boomers,” Ms. Stevens said. “We could handle an increase, but we need funding in order to do that.”
Contact Maya Averbuch at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @mayaaverbuch.