EDMOND — As Edmond officials search for ways to bring back a senior nutrition meal program, the reason why the program was cut is being debated. Recently the state Department of Human Services cut $7.4 million earmarked for some senior nutrition programs to account for a 5 percent cut in state funding. Don Hudman, executive director of Areawide Aging Agency, which covers central Oklahoma, said both federal law and state policy state that agencies serving senior adults should focus on those with the greatest economic and social need with particular attention to low-income minority individuals. "When older folks go to these meal sites they self report on their own income level,” he said. "When you look at the profile of all the folks from all the meal programs you will find that the folks at Edmond who are walking in are at the higher end of income level.” But Gail Deaton, executive director of the Edmond Senior Center, said the agency’s reason for closing the Edmond senior meals program is flawed. She said under the Older Americans Act, seniors cannot be asked their income to receive meals. "They don’t ask you what your income is; they can’t. What they ask is ‘do you fall above or below the poverty threshold?’ If you ask 10 seniors, maybe one would know that the poverty threshold in Oklahoma is $10,880,” she said. The Areawide Aging Agency closed three senior nutrition program sites in Oklahoma County including Choctaw, Joy Church and the meals program in the Edmond Senior Center. Hudman said closing these programs eliminated five half-day staff persons and limited several home-delivered meal routes. Deaton said Hudman’s formula for choosing which programs will continue to be funded seems to favor home-bound meal programs and not the congregate meal sites like the one in Edmond.
Meal alternativesSince the closing of the meal program at the Senior Center, Edmond seniors are encouraged to go to the MA Elderly Center at 1400 NW 115th in Oklahoma City. Fourteen participants from Edmond are already going to that site and have said they like it, Hudman said. Deaton said the Edmond Senior Center meals program does support seniors with low incomes, minorities and those at risk nutritionally. "We served a sampling of all those people every day,” she said. We have people come through this building from Piedmont, Guthrie and Luther.” Hudman said the response from Choctaw has been that city leaders have decided to "kick in money to keep the congregate site open.” "The response at the Edmond site is totally different,” he said. "The Aging Services division of Human Service backs our plan and truly believes that we weren’t discriminating against Edmond.” Deaton said she’s not worried about getting another meal program back. "We will. It may not be the one that we had,” she said. "But we’ll just move forward.” Monthly funding cuts at state agencies are expected to continue through June, the end of this fiscal year.