Jennifer Brown, the West Virginia Director of Senior and Community Services gave the committee an overview of the challenges her agency has had providing services to the state’s seniors post pandemic.
Brown explained to the committee that it’s always been challenging for seniors, many of whom rely solely on Social Security to afford food and the gas it takes to get to the store. Statewide, nearly one in 10 seniors struggles to get enough food; those with disabilities or raising grandkids are more likely to go hungry, Brown said.
The pandemic forced 3,000 new seniors to seek food from senior centers in West Virginia. As consumer prices have risen nearly 8 percent in the last year and a half, the problem is even more acute according to Brown.
Brown, who has run the Wyoming County center for decades, said the pandemic has been expensive. Her center in Mullens has had to adjust to feeding seniors while keeping them safe from the coronavirus. They did a grab and go meal option for seniors that didn’t feel comfortable going to the center in person. The center also offers medical services and connects seniors with any help they need.
West Virginia’s senior centers, which operate as nonprofits, are funded by a mix of federal, state and local funding. The state funding runs through the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services.