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Senior nutrition centers in danger of closing

Recent state budget cuts have reduced the already slim funding to senior centers across the state. (Source KSWO) Recent state budget cuts have reduced the already slim funding to senior centers across the state. (Source KSWO)

WALTERS, OK (KSWO) –The Walters Senior Nutrition Center is slated to close due to the low number of meals being served on a weekly basis.

Around 30 senior citizens and town officials gathered for a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Walters Community Center. The problem they face is the Walters Senior Nutrition Center only serves 18 meals per day. In order to be eligible for state and federal funding, a nutrition site must provide at least 25 meals per day, including home-delivered meals or meals provided at a nutrition site.

The Walters location does not cook any of the meals. All of the meals come from the Temple Nutrition Center.

A representative from the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments presented a couple of alternatives, including the center getting funding from the City of Walters and seniors being transported by bus, for free, to eat their meals at the senior center in Temple.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services says ASCOG requested the Walters site to be closed due to the low number of meals being served on a daily basis. DHS says ASCOG is arranging for the Temple location to provide meals to the affected seniors.

To say that the seniors were visibly upset would be an understatement, but they are not going down without a fight.

"We're going to do everything we can to not let this program go away, because there are seniors that need it," said Lynn Thompson, a Walters resident.

For seniors like Roy Elkins, who says he relies on the five meals he gets at the center each week, he could now be faced with having to go without.

"I'd be eating Vienna sausages and crackers. So, this is a lot to people that can't get out and go anywhere. This means a lot to them, they get a hot meal," Elkins said.

It's not just about the food, it’s also about the socialization. Stanley Morgan says often times, he catches himself watching time tick by as he spends most of his time alone because he is unable to drive.

"It helps me with some fellowship. The little bit of time I get, about 15 to 20 minutes, to talk to somebody," Morgan said.

Dede Baze, the director for the Temple Senior Nutrition Center, is also the current director of the program in Walters. She says it hurts to have to make these cuts.

"It's very important to them. I know there are some that can survive on their own here, and the same way as Temple, but there are a lot of them that this may be the only meal, good nutrition meal, they get a day and that is sad to say,” Baze said.

The meals for the seniors in Walters are currently free, with a $2 suggested donation. The City of Walters does have $12,000 in an activity fund that could be used to fund the center for the rest of the year if need be, but that would be a decision to be made by city officials.

Editor’s note:

The story has been updated to show that the impending closure of the Walters Senior Nutrition Site is not because of state budget cuts, but was at the request of ASCOG because of a low number of meals being served.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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