Office for the Aging


Oswego County: Gardening at Congregate Meal Sites Offers Social Benefits

Oswego’s six congregate dining and activity centers are spread out across 1,300 plus square miles and are strategically placed in towns and cities across the county to make it convenient for older adults to socialize, participate in recreational activities, and receive nutritious meals. Educating and encouraging older New Yorkers to stay active and maintain healthy diets that include fresh fruits and vegetables are the primary goals of the program.

Placing garden beds at the centers is one step in helping achieve a healthy diet. Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc.’s Parish Health Center began this initiative seven years ago with a grant received from the Central New York (CNY) Food Bank. Two years ago, the Fulton Center was also awarded funds from the CNY Food Bank to purchase materials for building raised cedar garden beds. The center manager, volunteers, and lunch guests helped to piece the cedar beds together and to plant and maintain the gardens.

The North Shore Center has a beautiful raised garden bed built by an Eagle Scout for his service project. The Eagle Scout Service Project gives scouts an opportunity to plan, develop, and give leadership to others. This garden is the largest in the county to date and accommodated enough plantings of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs to feed all of the participants at the center and more.

In 2015, raised garden beds were purchased for the rest of the congregate centers to grow, maintain, and eat the bounty with funds awarded to the program by the Rural Health Network.

The process of installing raised garden beds at Oswego County’s congregate dining and activity centers began in 2010. The planting of the center gardens will continue each spring. Most of the work is conducted by the center staff, volunteers, and guests during the summers.

“Gardening is an excellent way to help improve the overall health of older adults. Many of our seniors lived on farms and/or had large gardens at some point in their lives, and the congregate center gardens provide a chance to reminisce and participate in a familiar activity. In addition to the physical and psychological benefits, our seniors are able consume the fresh, healthy foods grown for an added nutritional boost. Obtaining and eating fresh local produce is often challenging for our participants due to finances, transportation, cooking ability, and other issues. Therefore, many of the fruits and veggies frequently consumed at home are canned versions with added sugars, sodium and preservatives. The center gardens provide an accessible way for the group to eat fresh, chemical and preservative-free, healthy produce throughout the summer.” said Chaya Charles, of Oswego County OFA.

For more information on how to sign up for a meal at one of the congregate centers and to join in on the gardening this spring and summer, please call Oswego County Opportunities at 315-598-4712 or visit the OCO nutrition services website.

For information about the grants, contact the Oswego County Office for the Aging at 315-349-3484.