Hot, group meals trimmed for seniors; services reduced as funding declines | Local

Orangeburg County’s homebound seniors will not be receiving hot meals as often as they are used to because of a decline in funding.

The Orangeburg County Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program has cut back its hot meal deliveries to four days a week – Monday through Thursday.

That schedule will continue until at least until the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, OCCOA Executive Director Dee Anne Miller said.

Hot meals used to be delivered five days a week. The four-day delivery schedule began May 16.

An estimated 90 hot meals will not be delivered Friday.

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Homebound seniors, primarily in rural areas, will still get five frozen meals a week.

In addition to the Meals on Wheels program, group dining at the OCCOA hot meal program has also been cut to three days a week – Monday and Wednesday. The congregate meal program was held four days a week.

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

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

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

It was expecting the American Rescue Plan money would help sustain the program when CARES ended.

“We didn’t find out until the middle of October (2021) from the state that actually that money (ARP) would only be used selectively,” Molnar told the Orangeburg County Council on Monday at the body’s regularly scheduled meeting.

“When I found that out, I asked the state to move some money around and talked with the Councils on Aging and said we have to cut back and that starting in January you could no longer provide the number of meals you are doing now,” he said.

“We had everybody off waiting lists. We had everybody getting meals, ”Molnar said. “It was very flush, but the reality is we were running out of money.”

“We notified the Councils on Aging in April what was going on,” Molnar said. “We had a conversation with them the beginning of this month to tell them there are some caps on the funding but starting in July we will know exactly what we are looking for.”

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

Miller said, “We have had to cut back but we are for sure not going to close.

“It has been a big hit for sure.”

The focus of the nonprofit OCCOA is to provide programs and services for county residents 60 and older. Promoting their independence and daily function, along with providing them with social and physical activities, is among the agency’s goals.

Seniors who qualify for home-delivered meals are either home-bound or have little to no family support, have health problems that prevent them from cooking and must be at least 60 years old.

Each month, the OCCOA feeds over 350 senior citizens with approximately 6,500 meals each month, either in the building or with the Meals on Wheels home-delivered program.

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

The status of the OCCOA Meals on Wheels program was brought up during County Council’s May 16 meeting when County Council Chair Johnnie Wright said he received some calls about the program being cut back and possibly shut down completely.

Miller said the agency has hit the pavement with fundraising efforts and is taking a “very, very conservative” approach to financial management, she said.

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

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

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