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NW Georgia targets senior hunger, is worst in state for elderly access to nutritious, affordable food

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A full house is expected at the Rome Civic Center this month when people from around the region gather to brainstorm ways to end senior hunger.

Georgia ranks third in the nation for food insecurity and Northwest Georgia has the worst record in the state when it comes to elderly residents having access to nutritious, affordable meals. Lynne Reeves, director of the Area Agency on Aging, said she’s hoping the Regional Senior Hunger Listening Session set for April 25 will generate a host of ideas to address the problem locally.

“We have invited over 200 individuals throughout our 15-county service area, but everyone who is interested is invited,” Reeves said.

Elected officials, faith leaders, community service organizations and others are expected at the session, which will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Civic Center on Jackson Hill.

The workshop is one of 12 the Georgia Department of Human Services is hosting across the state, with an eye to developing the state’s first comprehensive plan to combat senior hunger.

The issue is more complicated than just having money to buy food, Reeves noted. At a September 2016 kickoff of the outreach efforts, a presentation by University of Georgia associate professor Jung Sun Lee cited a senior’s health, physical limitation and social support among the other factors that could be involved.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies three so-called “food deserts” in Rome alone. They’re census tracts in the downtown area, along Shorter Avenue and in South Rome where at least a fifth of the residents live in poverty and a third live more than a mile from a supermarket.

Attendees at the listening session are asked to think about their experiences related to five topic areas: community needs, the health impact of hunger, access to food, reclaiming food waste and demographic trends.

Reeves said there’s no specific agenda but she expects state officials to focus on those topics as the group works to identify specific causes of senior hunger in the region and explore potential solutions.

Anyone interested in attending the free session may contact Reeves by email at lreeves@nwgrc.org or by phone at 706-295-6485.