Seniors can sign up for nutrition program

Local seniors can get ready to sign up for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program in the coming weeks at local senior centers across the county.

The program, which is slated to begin statewide on May 1, will take off a little over a week later on the 14th.

Connie Huntsman, executive director of the O’Neill and Belpre senior centers, said that the senior centers are overseeing the program this year, instead of the Area Agency on Aging 8 (AAA8).

“We have been charged with accepting applications and distributing coupons,” Huntsman said.

Rick Hindman, director of AAA8, said that his agency has been in charge of the distribution for many years.

“We did all of that,” Hindman said. “We don’t have the staff to support that (now). We said, ‘Look, you guys have to take this on again,’ and they were willing to do it…It just shows how committed folks like the O’Neill Center are about the people they serve.”

Until Thursday, Huntsman was unsure funding would come through early enough to meet the May 1 deadline for the program start. She said the program will roll out, allowing seniors enough time to spend their coupons through July 31.

Days to sign up for the coupons are May 14 and 15. They can be gotten on May 14 at the Belpre Senior Center from 9 to 11 a.m. and the O’Neill Senior Center from 3 to 6 p.m. They can be gotten on May 15 at the New Matamoras Senior Center from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Huntsman said the first set of vouchers will be for $25 and the second set will begin around August 1 and run through October 31, also for $25, for a total of $50 on the year. The coupons will be given out in five $5 increments.

Hindman said that across the county last year $67,730 worth of vouchers went out to 1,555 seniors across eight counties: Washington, Noble, Athens, Perry, Monroe, Morgan, Meigs and Hocking. A total of 409 seniors from Washington County benefitted from the program last year.

“This is a very popular program,” Hindman said. “We have a long waiting list…662 people were on our waiting list last year.”

Hindman said the funding this year is a little less than last year.

“Total allocations for all eight counties is $1,018 less than last year, ($66,712),” Hindman said. “For 2014, it looks like we will be able to help 359 folks in Washington County, where last year it was 409.”

Hindman said that fresh fruits and vegetables will be able to grace seniors’ tables this year from 38 farmers in Washington County, and added the coupons could also be be used “anywhere in the state.”

To qualify, seniors must be 60 years or older and must have an annual income of $21,590 or less for a single person or $29,101 or less for a household of two.

Huntsman said the goal is to get people signed up and hand them their coupons all on the same day.

“(Seniors) can come in and apply and then receive their coupons all at the same time,” Huntsman said. “We try to make it as easy as we can. Rather than having to get the application, then mail it in and see if they’re approved, that’s rather cumbersome; We thought we’d make it a smooth, one-day process.”