It was just a month ago that we used this space to announce that NFESH and the Georgia Department of Human Services would soon be kicking off the Georgia What A Waste Initiative at nine senior nutrition sites across the State. We are pleased to say that what we predicted would be “a peach of a project” is now in full swing and living up to its billing.
Last week NFESH President Matt Levine traveled to Georgia to meet with and train the project directors of all nine sites in three regions of the Georgia — the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission and Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging. It took him from the sprawling and growing suburbs of Cobb County in the Atlanta area to the heart of remote farmland and peach producing country, where one county is even named Peach. By the end of his visit, all nine programs in the three AAAs had been instructed in understanding the types of waste, measuring it, categorizing it, and entering the information into NFESH’s proprietary software program, The Waste Terminator. He had also had conversations about waste diversion and the value of compost and gardening. All of this is routine operating procedure at the beginning of any What A Waste project, of course. But if you spoke to Matt personally, he would tell you that his Georgia trip was about much more than that.
He’d witnessed southern hospitality before, and this time was no different. It was pervasive at every one of the senior centers he visited. But he admits that his drive through middle Georgia, where his travel time was about an hour and a half between sites (and there wasn’t much else but open road and pines between), gave him a new sense of what “rural” meant and of the difficulties that the folks who live and work there face. That certainly includes senior nutrition programs and their staffs. But as vast as the geographical distances were, he said he sensed an almost inverse situation in the relationships among the people of the region. There was a closeness, a real sense of a tight-knit community that was akin to family. Senior center directors knew the personal preferences of each and every meal service client – as well as of those other seniors who need meals but aren’t being served because of a lack of resources. It was the first time in our What A Waste project experience that we encountered waiting lists for congregate meals. Such are relatively common in the world of home-delivered meals, but not in the senior center world. It will be among our principal shared goals to help programs shorten those lists and bring more seniors to the tables.
“I felt that all the programs welcomed us, because they sincerely want to succeed,” Matt said. “And a great deal of that determination and dedication comes not only from within the people of the individual communities. It starts right at the top with the Commissioner of Human Services and the leadership at the AAA and State level. They are fully invested.”
So are we at NFESH. We have no doubts that we will learn as much as we teach during the next six months in Georgia. And we will pass it on.