Hot group meals tailored for seniors; services cut as funding dwindles | Local

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Homebound seniors in Orangeburg County will not receive hot meals as often as they are used to due to a funding cut.

The Orangeburg County Council’s Meals on Wheels program on aging has reduced its hot meal deliveries to four days a week, Monday through Thursday.

This schedule will continue at least until the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, said OCCOA chief executive Dee Anne Miller.

Hot meals were delivered five days a week. The four-day delivery schedule began on May 16.

It is estimated that 90 hot meals will not be delivered on Friday.

Homebound elderly people, mostly in rural areas, will still receive five frozen meals a week.

In addition to the meals-on-wheels program, group meals under OCCOA’s hot meals program have also been reduced to three days a week – Monday and Wednesday. The group meal program took place four days a week.

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OCCOA obtains Older American Act funding through the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, which provides approximately 85% to 90% of Meals on Wheels funding.

The cards

Other funding comes from Orangeburg County, agencies like United Way of the Midlands, churches and fundraising efforts.

LSCOG executive director Dr William Molnar said the LSCOG stopped receiving money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in June 2021.

He expected the US bailout money to help sustain the program when CARES ended.

“We only found out in mid-October (2021) from the state that in fact this (ARP) money would only be used selectively,” Molnar told the Orangeburg County Board on Monday during of the organization’s regular meeting.

“When I found out about this I asked the state to move some money and I spoke with the Councils on Aging and said we need to cut back and from January, you couldn’t provide the number of meals you do now,” he said.

“We had everyone on waiting lists. Everyone was having their meals,” Molnar said. “It was very clear, but the reality is that we were short of money.”

“We informed the Councils on Aging in April about what was going on,” Molnar said. “We had a conversation with them earlier this month to let them know there are caps on funding, but from July we’ll know exactly what we’re looking for.”

More information on the availability of funds for the Council on Aging will be better known by June, Molnar said.

Miller said: “We’ve had to cut back but we’re definitely not going to close.

“It was a big hit, that’s for sure.”

The purpose of the nonprofit OCCOA is to provide programs and services to county residents 60 and older. Promoting their autonomy and daily functioning, as well as providing them with social and physical activities, are part of the agency’s objectives.

Seniors who qualify for meals delivered to homes are housebound or have little or no family support, have health conditions that prevent them from cooking, and must be at least 60 years old.

Each month, OCCOA feeds more than 350 seniors with approximately 6,500 meals per month, either in the building or with the Meals on Wheels program.

It costs OCCOA about $6 per meal, Miller said.

The status of OCCOA’s Meals on Wheels program was brought up at the May 16 county council meeting when county council chairman Johnnie Wright said he had received calls about the reduction and possibly the complete closure of the program.

Miller said the agency has launched fundraising efforts and takes a “very, very conservative” approach to financial management, she said.

“Going forward, it’s critical that we work with corporate partners and the philanthropic community in Orangeburg,” Miller said. “He is essential to the well-being of our most vulnerable in Orangeburg County.”


TheTandD.com: $1 for the first 26 weeks

Donations can be sent to: Orangeburg County Council on Aging, PO Box 1301, Orangeburg, SC 29116.

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