A levy on the March ballot could expand Meals on Wheels services in Athens County

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GLOUSTER, Ohio (WOUB/Report for America) — Every week, Paula Hoke delivers food to seniors throughout Athens County. Today, one is eager to show her something: a get-well card with pictures of his nephew and two nieces.

“How cute is that?” Hoke remarks.

She and the man, Glen, converse for a few more minutes. Hoke asks if he’s working this weekend, and Glen says he is.

“Good deal. Good for you,” says Hoke.

Hoke has become used to conversations like this since she became a driver for the Athens County Meals on Wheels program in January. Each week, she delivers a mix of hot and cold meals to seniors with mobility issues in Athens County. In the process, she takes the time to check in with everyone and find out what’s new in their lives.

A woman wearing a medical mask stands beside paper bags with meal deliveries for the program Meals on Wheels.
Paula Hoke stands next to the meals she will deliver on her Friday route. Each enrolled senior will get a combination of hot and cold meals. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB/Report for America]
Meals on Wheels in Athens County is funded through a levy, but those funds aren’t enough to cover every eligible senior who applies. That’s why supporters of Meals on Wheels have placed a second levy on the ballot for the primary election occurring March 19.

“This would allow us to eliminate the approximately 60-person waitlist,” said Hocking Athens Perry Community Action’s Valerie Addis. That translates to 15,000 additional meals each year for five years. Each Meals on Wheels enrollee gets a total of five meals per week.

HAPCAP’s Naomi Squires said the program currently serves about 132 people in Athens.

While Meals on Wheels primarily exists to address hunger, it also helps with loneliness.

“A lot of these folks either don’t have family or sometimes their family lives out of state, and so they just don’t have people checking in on them on a regular basis,” Squires said. “Loneliness is a big factor.”

If the March levy passes, it will add 0.25 mills to Athens County property taxes over five years. This is separate from the existing levy for Meals on Wheels, which will be up for renewal in November.