Q&A with Nancy Smith

December 18, 2013 

Nancy Smith

Q&A with Nancy Smith

City of Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Executive director, Middle Georgia/Heart of Georgia Community Action Agency Inc.

QUESTION: You’re making the rounds asking Peach County governments for funding for your senior meals programs. Why?

ANSWER: We took a 9 percent funding cut this year in our senior nutrition programs, and we’re trying to make up the shortfall.

QUESTION: Is the funding cut sequestration related?

ANSWER: Yes. Our meals programs are funded primarily through Medicaid and from federal funds coming through the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. Medicaid funds are still there but frozen, so we can’t add new clients for meals. Federal funds through the regional commission have been cut, and we’re asking local governments to help people in their areas.

We haven’t seen figures from various federal budget compromise actions so we’re waiting to see how they turn out. We’re worried about any reduction in funding.

QUESTION: You’ve been talking to Peach officials, but you serve a much wider area.

ANSWER: We provide a variety of services in 32 counties from Spalding to Telfair to Pike to Wilkinson counties. We’re seeking funding from counties and municipalities affected by the cuts but not from Houston County where commissioners are under a tax cap and can’t provide funds to our programs.

QUESTION: Looking at Peach County, how many seniors do you serve?

ANSWER: We have 33 unduplicated congregant clients there. Those are seniors who come for meals at the senior center at 101 Murray Road in Fort Valley. They come for meals, socialization, educational activities and arts and crafts. It’s a five-day-a-week, 265-days-a-year program. Congregant meals are $11 each and include meals, transportation costs and costs for supplies and center employees.

Delivered meals are $7.75 each, and we serve 730 meals a month in Peach County. A large part of that funding comes through the regional commission.

QUESTION: Have you had to cut participants?

ANSWER: No, but of course that’s our concern. These seniors are all low-income, and the meals are a big part of their nutritional wellbeing. Our delivery clients all have some level of isolation, and many live way out in the country. They don’t have a way to get around. Many are eligible for nursing homes but are trying to stay in their homes. Providing meals is more economical than if they had to receive funding for a long-term care facility.

QUESTION: Even though these are meals and nutrition programs, it sounds like they provide more than that?

ANSWER: Definitely. They provide human contact as well. For delivery clients, and especially the more rural delivery clients, it provides human contact and someone who sees them each day who can recognize different patterns and changes that might be important. We’ve had cases where our worker called emergency services for clients that had fallen. If not for them, their condition might have gone unnoticed for who knows how long. Our drivers have family, neighbor and emergency contact numbers for those they deliver to.

QUESTION: How do you see prospects for more local funding?

ANSWER: We’re optimistic we’ll get local help. These seniors are fragile and need the help. They’re on low, fixed incomes and are very vulnerable. Their nutrition isn’t frivolous; it’s something they can’t do without.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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