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Marcy Kaptur touts Senior Nutrition

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

TOLEDO: US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur [9th District, OH] used Wednesdays at Westgate as a backdrop to tout a senior nutrition coupon to help northern Ohio’s elderly population add fresh fruits and vegetables from local farm markets to their diets.

 

Thousands of senior citizens are suffering health problems as a direct result of poor nutrition, according to the Ninth District Ohio congressional representative. Ms. Kaptur touted local efforts to provide supplemental resources for seniors at the Westgate Market, 3301 Secor Rd., at a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.

The Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program helps older residents, mostly on fixed incomes, to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables and eat nutritious locally grown foods. The program, in turn, helps local farmers and growers find a new market to sell their fresh produce. Ms. Kaptur called it a “win-win for everyone.”

To be eligible for the program, one must be a single individual over 60 years of age, earning under $22,459 annually or a couple earning less than $30,451 per year. Ms. Kaptur stated that qualifies “the vast majority of the seniors across our region” for the program. The federal program provides $50 in coupons that seniors can use at local farm markets for fresh food.

The Northwest Ohio Area Office on Aging, which administers the program, already has received inquiries from 19,000 seniors, but Ms. Kaptur wants to see more people apply for the coupons. The Area Office on Aging covers a ten-county region. The number to call is 419.382.0624.

“We would love to get fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of all older adults, because that is the basis of a healthy diet,” said Dr. Rebecca Liebes, whose office runs the program locally.

“We see the impact of poor nutrition every single day,” said Doni Miller, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Health Association (NHA). “We have the added insight of being able to see the impact of poverty and the lack of attention to wellness on the part of seniors as well. If you don’t pay attention to those aspects of your life, the rest of your life is not going to be of the quality you need it to be. We see people every day whose issues are exacerbated by the fact that they are not getting fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Ms. Kaptur related a story where wheelchair-bound residents in a large building downtown leave their building to head to a corner store “to buy candy and Doritos” because there are no healthy food options nearby available for purchase.

“The food choices are very limited. So when those people come into our hospitals and health clinics with high blood pressure and diabetic conditions undiagnosed, there are reasons for that,” she said. “We simply can’t rob people of these important ingredients of human health.”

Ms. Kaptur also pointed out the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture awarded $2.3 million to Produce Perks Midwest, to provide supplemental dollars to recipients in Ohio of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 1.4 million Ohioans qualify for that program. The funding is meant to expand the offerings and increase access to fresh produce, according to the congresswoman.

“This program provides a dollar-for-dollar match for their SNAP coupon to purchase fresh produce from farmers markets and retailers in over 100 locations throughout our state, including Toledo’s Farmers Market,” she said. “We are all looking for creative ways to resolve food insecurity and we know this an important concern to so many people across our region.”

“It is not just that people don’t understand the importance of health and wellness,” echoed Ms. Miller. “It’s often that they don’t have access to the means that allow them to purchase those fresh fruits and vegetables. If we want a vibrant and healthy community, we have to look at the importance of this issue.”

Many seniors simply cannot get fresh produce because it’s either not readily available in their neighborhood or they have transportation troubles to get to a local farmer’s market or grocery store. The Seagate Food Bank began a mobile pantry where fresh fruits and vegetables are made available monthly to shut-ins or those with transportation issues.

ProMedica has made a ten-year, $50 million commitment to address so-called “food deserts” where access to healthy food offerings in neighborhoods is a long-term concern. The food coupon programs can be used at such facilities, such as the Market on the Green, a neighborhood grocery store established by ProMedica in downtown Toledo near pockets of poverty. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a staple of that market.

“In 2015, we started screening our patients for food insecurity and realized that people were coming to appointments not only to talk about health and health concerns, but they were coming to appointments hungry,” said Kendra Smith, director of social determinants of health at ProMedica. The health provider started “food clinics,” where eligible patients began receiving a three-day supply of nutritious offerings to take home every month for up to six months.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Congresswoman Kaptur.

Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/21/18 12:50:11 -0700.

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