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Senior meals may be funded

Relief is on the way for local senior adult centers after an announcement Wednesday that more than $1.5 million has been allocated through President Obama’s stimulus package to help fund senior nutrition programs in Alabama.

In October 2008, municipalities in Covington County were notified by the South Alabama Regional Council on Aging (SARCOA) that it was reducing the number of meals it funds for senior citizens here by 220 per week. Those cuts were necessary because of reduced funding and increases in meal costs and the cost of transporting those meals, according to officials.

Agencies were then left with the option to either eliminate those meals or seek alternative funding. Some were successful; some were not.

Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services will award $1,527,656 in Recovery Act funding to provide meals to low-income seniors in Alabama. Nationwide, the funding is expected to provide nearly 14 million meals.

“Across the country, older Americans depend on senior centers and home delivery programs for regular, healthy meals,” Biden said in a printed release. “The Recovery Act will help ensure older Americans are not forced to choose between paying bills and buying food,” he said.

Dianne Jones, program coordinator for the city of Andalusia, said she was happy to hear the news.

“We are excited at the possibility of recovering the 34 (daily) meals we were cut last year due to government cuts,” she said. “We hope to even add additional hot meals at the Andalusia Senior Nutrition Center to aid the senior adults in our area.”

Nationwide, the Recovery Act provides $65 million for congregate nutrition services provided at senior centers and other community sites, $32 million for home delivered nutrition services delivered to frail elders at home and $3 million for Native American nutrition programs. The funding will be awarded to 56 states and territories and 246 tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. It is unknown when local agencies will receive the designated funds.