Nationally, the report found that one out of every seven seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2010. That equals about 8.3 million seniors nationwide. The statistics show that seniors in southern states are more likely to go hungry, as are women and minorities.
In Walker County, there are limited resources for seniors dealing with hunger. Senior citizen centers across the county provide hot meals for about 175 people at the centers and deliver hot meals to another 63 people who are homebound each month. The centers with nutrition centers are located in Carbon Hill, Cordova, Jasper, Oakman, Parrish and Sumiton. These centers are supported by the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging (M4A) which oversees programs in five counties: Walker, Blount, Shelby, Chilton and St. Clair.
Debbie Battles, M4A’s director of programs and operations, said that the centers cannot currently add any more seniors and the waiting list for seniors in need of meals in Walker County is the second longest in their service area. The program is funded by the state, but, like other state agencies, has faced budget cuts that make it impossible to increase the assistance available.
“At the moment we can’t add any more meals, we can only sustain our numbers right now,” Battles said. “It depends on the funding we get.”
For any seniors in need of assistance, Battles encourages them to call the M4A’s toll-free number (1-866-570-2998) to see what assistance might be available.
“We’ll try to get them on our waiting list and also see what other resources we can help them get,” Battles said.
One program that helps many seniors in Walker County, while also helping local farmers, is the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Programs. The SFMNP sends qualifying seniors coupons that can be redeemed at the local Farmer’s Market for fresh produce. This year, the program requires seniors to apply online, a process that may be difficult for some, Battles said. M4A will actually handle the online application for them if they call.
“When they call us, we can ask them the questions and fill it in for them,” Battles said.
The website to apply for the fresh produce coupons is www.fma.alabama.gov/seniornutrition.