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Senior Stories

In 2022, two Farm to Senior Service interns explored the role of senior centers in McDowell and Richmond counties, focusing on local food. Ben and Charlie spoke with several seniors to understand their experiences with local food at these centers.

They found that senior centers are vital community hubs that provide nourishment, fellowship, and wellness benefits to local seniors. For seniors with mobility challenges, these centers are lifelines, sometimes the sole reliable source of food.

Sue at Rockingham Senior Center in Richmond

Consider the story of James from McDowell County, whose spouse's severe COPD confines her to their home. James travels to the senior center daily for lunch, while a neighbor stays with his wife. These visits afford him precious moments away from caregiving duties, with the center's meals sometimes constituting his sole meal for the day. An affordable, nutritious meal enjoyed among friends is critical to James's overall well-being.

Similarly, Sue, a Richmond County senior, praises the cooking and nutrition lessons provided by Rockingham's senior center. “Since my husband died, I noticed I haven’t been eating right. Then I found out about protein, which I needed more than anything else for my muscle mass.”  The introduction of a juicer in the center's kitchen has helped boost nutrition for all the seniors. “Everybody drinks the juice. I mean, that's awesome. It's so healthy,” says Sue.

Meanwhile, Betty in McDowell county has been experimenting with growing edible plants indoors. She grew up on a farm near Beaufort, NC. “We grew everything. The only thing we would buy would be flour and sugar and coffee and stuff like that.” While she doesn’t have a garden today, she grows herbs, onions, and lettuce in pots at her apartment. She dines at the senior center regularly, and since she doesn’t like to cook at home, these meals provide an opportunity for her to eat scratch-made local food.

Some seniors come for the activities and stay for the food. Billy’s favorite things at the senior center in Richmond County are volleyball, pool, and crafts. He enjoys staying for lunch, especially when it’s spaghetti. When it comes to buying local to eat at home, his main issue reflects a wider issue for seniors: transportation. Many seniors are house-bound and rely on delivery or transportation services to supply goods. Local food often falls to the bottom of the priority list when seniors are choosing how to spend valuable time with limited transportation.

Unlocking the potential of senior centers as conduits for local food consumption is crucial. Whether through cooking lessons, meals, produce distributions, or farmers' markets, these centers provide a bridge to seniors for local food providers.

McDowell County Senior Center.webp

Workers at McDowell Senior Center prepare meals from local foods.

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