Story in Brief
Good nutrition is a key factor for older adults to maintain well-being and an independent, healthy lifestyle, and in recovering from an illness or an injury. Reasonably priced, wholesome foods are not always accessible to older adults because of the lack of transportation, health problems and disabilities, and the lack of food stores within close proximity for shopping. The Athens Area Master Gardeners received the Plant-a-Row for the Hungry (PAR) grant. PAR is part of a national movement that began in 1995 by Garden Communicators International, “a communications program encouraging individual gardeners, companies and community gardens to donate fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers to food agencies and/or soup kitchens to help feed those in need.” This annual endeavor provides fresh produce for the Oconee County Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Extension Senior Sense program. The Senior Sense program is comprised of low-income seniors who attend monthly nutrition workshops. Typically, seniors visit the Bishop Community Center each week and peruse the bounty of fresh produce and pack a bag with their choice of vegetables. Then once a month, they attend a session on how to prepare the produce in healthier, low cost ways. However, this year had to be different due to social distancing requirements based on COVID-19. The FACS agent worked with Oconee County Master FACS volunteers and the Master Gardeners to provide a drive-through produce distribution for the seniors each week, so that the food could still be distributed while keeping everyone safe. In addition to the weekly produce distribution, local churches and civic clubs provide boxes of non-perishable items, laundry baskets with cleaning supplies, or bags of personal items for each senior. Since May 2020 when the drive-through distribution began, about 1,500 pounds of produce valued at $4,875 has been provided from the Plant-A-Row garden. Produce includes tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapeño peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, okra, Irish potatoes, cucumbers, crowder peas, eggplant, sugar snap peas, green beans, sweet potatoes and herbs. Master FACS volunteers logged 103 hours between May and October 2020 through 17 produce distributions.