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HFS launches new pilot program for seniors

Mary Kocak poses for a picture with the fresh fruits and vegetables available as part of the new HFS pilot program called Market Cart. Photo courtesy of Hastings Family Service

Hastings area seniors have been receiving fresh fruits and vegetables through a new pilot program at Hastings Family Service called Market Cart. The pilot program is a way for seniors to have access to fresh produce that might be costly.

"It's a way for seniors to be able to have access to fresh produce that might be costly; sometimes it's a cost preventative thing to be able to eat healthy so it was a partnership with Alline and Hastings Family Service to offer this to the senior population," said Mary Kocak, food shelf director at HFS.

HFS received a $2,500 charitable contribution from Regina Hospital, part of Allina Health for the Market Cart program. Allina invests charitable contributions in non-profit organizations throughout the community that align with their mission.

The pilot program began in November with the Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS). Seniors receive a box of food through the program, but it typically doesn't contain fresh produce. Kocak said the seniors who participate in the NAPS program were called and asked what produce they would like in their box or they were able to come into HFS to pick out their own.

In December, the Market Cart program contributed to the Meals on Wheels program for seniors. Once again, volunteers called the seniors to ask what kind of produce they wanted to receive. Kocak said she received a lot of positive reaction from seniors learning they could receive fresh quality products.

Kocak said all the fresh produce is of grocery store quality. Seniors have had choices of potatoes, carrots, bananas, apples, broccoli and frozen berries.

The senior population was chosen for the program because it is the fastest growing population, Kocak said. Seniors may have difficulty accessing fresh produce due to mobility or expense. In addition, they may have more dietary needs due to diabetes, a heart condition or some other medical issue which involves an expense for medication. Kocak said sometimes seniors will pay for those medical costs and insurance over fresh fruits.

"It's targeting seniors who may find real difficulty to provide those healthy foods that their diet needs and they just go without," she said.

The pilot program has been running through the funds provided by Regina, which means another source of funding is needed for the program to continue. HFS would also need to make sure they would have capacity to continue the program.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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