Niagara County talks closure of three nutrition sites
The nutrition program provides meals to those 60 years old or older. Besides meals, offered at many sites five days a week, there is also services including nutrition education, health and wellness programs, legal counseling, recreation programs and more.
Earlier this month Office for the Aging Director Ken Genewick sent out a letter announcing the closure of three nutrition sites by Aug. 31. Niagara County currently has 23 sites and the three cited for closure have the lowest turnout.
Genewick said he is looking for ways to save money and make the program more efficient. To do that, he believes closing three sites would allow the county to say more than $45,000.
The state pays 75 percent of the program cost but the county has to pay 25 percent. The suggested contribution per meal for those 60 and over at $3 and $4 for those under 60. All contributions are kept confidential and no one will be denied a meal due to inability to contribute.
The sites up for closure include St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls, Tuscarora Nation House and Summit View in Wheatfield.
Genewick said those who currently attend the sites scheduled for closure can continued to get hot meals daily. He said they would now be transported to the other sites in the county. Many, he said, already get transported to their current sites, so it is a matter of being transported to a new location in the same area.
At the meeting, a group of county residents gathered to show their support of a resolution, calling for the sites to remain open. The resolution was sponsored by Legislators Dennis Virtuoso, Owen Steed and Jason Zona.
“Where is the compassion for seniors,” Margie Swan of Cambria said. “They deserve better than this.”
Vanessa Walker, the site director for St. John’s spoke on behalf of the seniors that attend her program.
“They are very disappointed,” she said. “They don’t like change. People are not just a number on a piece of paper.”
She said the seniors that attend come there because they want to be with their friends who have now become family.
“They pray together, laugh together, sing together and cry together,” she said.
Some residents that spoke suggested the reason the turnout was lower in those locations more recently was because they believed the quality of food has decreased and seniors are not wanting to eat the meals.
Janet Farealla, a Summit View residents asked the county to give them one more year to increase the numbers and their money count. She said daily there are 15 to 20 people, ages 55 to 92 that attend the program five days a week.
They use their community room and she feared that many would not want to or be able to be transported from their home to go to another site.
“We’ll bring them up,” she said. “I promise you.”
The resolution in support of keeping the sites open was referred to the Community Service Committee which will hold their next meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 13.