Maintaining proper nutrition is vital for seniors as it can help prevent and treat many illnesses, diseases and health-related issues. That’s why The Committee on Aging for Randolph County, better known as the Randolph County Senior Center (RCSC), in Elkins, West Virginia, has provided healthy, affordable meals to seniors through its nutrition program for over 40 years. Senior center members not only receive delicious, well-balanced meals, but they benefit from opportunities to socialize and participate in group activities.
“A meal isn't always just a meal,” said Laura Ward, executive director of the Randolph County Senior Center. “The seniors who join us for lunch at congregate sites also enjoy the benefits of social interaction with others. Studies show that elders who are socially active enjoy improved health, both physical and emotional.”
The RCSC nutrition program provides meals Monday through Friday at congregate locations in Elkins, Harman, and Mill Creek. Seniors who are unable to visit those sites may receive home-delivered meals with additional, frozen meals for weekends. Emergency shelf-stable meals are also given to these seniors for use when inclement weather or another emergency prevents meal delivery.
“Home-delivered meals not only provide nutritious food, but a wellness check and a happy social interaction with someone who cares about their well-being,” Ward said. “The meals reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and nursing home admittance while providing an increased quality of life. Participants say the program helps them feel more secure and enables them to continue living independently.”
Federal and state funding to administer the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program at senior centers often covers less than one-third of the cost of meals. As a result, seniors in some counties in West Virginia who need home-delivered meals are placed on waiting lists due to funding shortfalls.
Ward said the RCSC’s goal is never to put a Randolph County senior in need of a meal on a waiting list. To achieve that goal, the center proactively seeks diversified funding to offset costs of the program so all seniors, regardless of their ability to pay, can get the nutrition they need.
The Pallottine Foundation of Buckhannon began partnering with the RCSC in 2016 and has awarded Healthy Communities grants to the center each year, providing a total of $50,000 in funding to the nutrition program. During that time, the center has served 239,154 meals to seniors in Randolph County.
Ward said participants in the nutrition program provide lots of positive feedback through surveys and daily interactions. One of the most common comments is how grateful they are for the meals because it is difficult to cook a healthy and varied menu at home for just one or two people.
“This program is so impactful to the seniors we serve,” Ward said. “These are the people who built our state, our roads, our schools. They are the folks who fought real enemies in real wars to protect us and our way of life. In addition to our gratitude, we owe them an investment in and fierce protection of the services that make their lives better.”