Dec. 26, 2017Program Serves Hundreds of Seniors across Oswego County -
OSWEGO COUNTY - The winter months can bring many challenges to healthy people of all ages. For the elderly who are homebound, chores such as buying groceries and preparing meals can be overwhelming during the winter. However, thanks to the Oswego County Home-Delivered Meals Program, more than 500 seniors a day are receiving nutritious meals without having to leave their homes.
In a large rural county of 968 square miles, that is no small undertaking. The Oswego County Office for the Aging contracts with Oswego County Opportunities Inc. (OCO) to have meals prepared at the OCO kitchen facility in Mexico and distributed via 15 delivery routes throughout the county.
"OCO provides eligible seniors up to five noon and five evening meals, which are delivered four to five days per week," said Sara Sunday, Administrator of the County Office for the Aging. "We are proud that we do not have a waiting list and that meals are delivered to all areas of Oswego County, helping up to 530 seniors and their families on any given weekday. This valuable program helps keep seniors safely in their homes."
The agencies rely on funding from the Oswego County operating budget as well as state and federal sources. There are a few paid drivers, and more than 300 volunteer drivers. Along with meals, the drivers often provide social contact with the outside world.
"In the farthest corners of the county, a meal driver may be the only person a client sees that day," said Sunday.
Even with all available funding allocated to the program, Sunday says it's difficult to keep up with the growing needs of an increasingly aging population.
"In 2016 the program provided 226,408 home-delivered meals throughout the entire county. We estimate that over 230,000 home-delivered meals will be provided in 2017," added Sunday. "We continue to provide the level of service for the meals program, but costs associated with delivering the meals, along with the cost to purchase and prepare food, are rising."
U.S. Census data over the past few decades show that Oswego County's population projections continue to follow national and state trends with an increasingly aging population. The average age of the population of Oswego County is growing older, and the senior population continues to grow.
The Office for the Aging relies more and more on donations from users and their family members to keep up with the need for home-delivered meals. Sunday is concerned that OFA may be forced to create a waiting list for the program.
"OFA is at a crossroads where federal and state funding has not increased with the need, and demand continues to increase," said Sunday. "While many baby boomers are healthy and able to maintain an active lifestyle, there are also a number who are in desperate need of assistance and services."
The program costs more than $1.2 million annually and is partially funded by federal and state grants as well as the Oswego County Legislature. Contributions from participants, their families and others are vital to the continued success of the program.
"The OFA is faced with the reality that there is an increase in the number of persons requesting meals. Without additional funding, OFA will not be able to provide the meals and a wait list may be on the horizon. We are hoping the community will come to our aid and help us continue to help our most vulnerable residents and neighbors without delay," said Sunday.
Those who would like to contribute to the Oswego County Home-Delivered Meals Program, may send a check or money order to Home-Delivered Meals Program, Oswego County Office for the Aging, 70 Bunner St., Oswego NY, 13126.
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