By LANCE CRANMER LCranmer@NationalChurchResidences.org
COLUMBUS – April Huber watched as her residents filed in to the community room five at a time holding bags and baskets, waiting their turn to walk through and collect their supply of donated food.
“It doesn’t matter if we have one thing to give or 1,000 things … everything helps,” said April, the Senior Property Manager at National Church Residences Lincoln Gardens.
Three years ago, April secured a monthly food donation from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank to benefit the 100 low-income seniors who live at Lincoln Gardens.
“For some of them, as little as $343 is their monthly income. Some only get $16 to $32 a month in food stamps,” April said. “Having this food, especially at the end of the month, is such a help. This means a lot to them.”
April said she initially got the property on a waiting list with Mid-Ohio Food Bank, a non-profit that has served Central Ohio on the mission to end hunger since 1980, before becoming a regular once-a-month stop.
Seeking to help another National Church Residences property that was in great need, April made an additional request to Mid-Ohio to see if the organization could help Meadowview Village, located roughly 25 miles away in rural Mt. Sterling, Ohio.
“When we asked Mid-Ohio Food Bank if we could take food down there, even though it is in Madison County, they said sure,” April said.
Tammy Justice began her career at National Church Residences working under April at Lincoln Gardens. A year ago she made the transition to becoming the Property Manager at Meadowview.
“April recruited me,” Tammy said. “She knew this property and she knew the needs of the community. Now that we are at full occupancy, there’s an even bigger need.”
Nearly two years ago the only grocery store in Mt. Sterling, a community with a population of less than 1,800, closed down leaving Meadowview residents without a nearby place to get groceries.
“A lot of our residents don’t drive,” Tammy said. “The nearest store is probably in Washington Court House, which is about 20 minutes away.”
Tammy said when Meadowview residents are able to make grocery runs, they make sure to take care of each other.
“If one is going to the grocery store and they have a neighbor who doesn’t have a car,” she said, “they knock on their door and ask if they need anything or if they want to go with them.”
Having the food brought straight to their building, however, is a Godsend.
“They get a 5- or 10-pound bag of potatoes, some onions, fruit, milk – they get between $50 to $80 worth of groceries,” Tammy said. “For one person who lives alone, that’s pretty good.”
Since she arrived at Meadowview, Tammy has helped multiple formerly homeless into the building. She said, at first, getting them back on their feet is a challenge.
“They don’t have money for things like groceries,” she said. “The donations we get from Mid-Ohio Food bank are such a big help for them.”
According to information released by the Mayo Clinic, currently 10 million Americans aged 50 or older are considered “food insecure,” meaning that they do not have reliable access to food.
A 2014 study conducted by Feeding America found that seniors who suffer from being food insecure are at higher risk for chronic health conditions and depression. Food insecurity has been found to be a strong predictor of health problems in seniors as it leads to reduced muscle mass, lower bone density, poor vision and an increased likelihood to report heart problems.
April said the monthly food delivery to Lincoln Gardens has been very important to her residents.
“These are the people programs like this are meant to benefit,” she said.
“You’ve got people who will come up to you two or three days from now and just say, ‘thank you for the food,’” added Tammy. “I think it’s a big help.”