Senior Nutrition changes with COVID-19
The South Central Human Resource Agency Senior Nutrition program is a huge daily undertaking during normal times. We have 20 sites across the 13 county region that serve or deliver a hot meal five days a week; typically feeding on average 6100 meals a month through the congregant program and 9000 meals delivered each month. In addition to the amazing kitchen staffs in both Fayetteville and Hohenwald who prepare the food we also have great site managers that take that food and get it ready for the seniors that come and eat at the site as well as the meals that are to be delivered. Finally, we have our dedicated, irreplaceable volunteers, many who are seniors themselves, who give their time to deliver those meals to our home bound clients. Now, add COVID-19 and our world, as well as our clients has been turned upside down. Specifically for our volunteers, the new socialization rules were going to have the possibility of being an issue during this time. We have a number who are considered at risk themselves and their health and keeping them safe was a top concern. The importance of this program cannot be understated. There have been many studies done showing the importance of regular human contact and connections, as well as having access to at least one nutritional meal a day. Each of our 20 sites normally offers both of these 5 days a week. For those that come to the congregant sites, being able to see friends daily is an important part of staying healthy. For our home bounds clients, sometimes our meal delivery is the only contact they have with someone else daily.
Needless to say, when the state went into shutdown mode, making sure that our senior clients continued to get their meals was at the top of our priority list. We have a number of our home bound clients who are reliant on the SCHRA food program for their daily meals so not continuing was not going to be an option. Number two on the priority list was the safety of our staff and volunteers in continuing to fulfill this important job. Our last site shut its doors on March 20th for congregant meals. Those who had previously been coming to the sites to eat were given the option of being added to the delivery list or coming to the sites to pick up their meals each day. While it was not our first choice, in order to keep everyone safe, we began delivering frozen meals to those who normally received hot meals that were to be reheated at home; with the plan to figure out how to resume safe delivery of a hot meal as quickly as possible. During the month of April we tried to deliver hot meals but did not always have the volunteers available to get those meals where they needed to be in a timely manner and had to return to the frozen meals. With the help of our staff as well as site managers and the numerous volunteers who stepped in from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD), on May 4th we were able to return to the normal hot meals for our clients. This would not have been possible without the cooperation from TCAD and we are incredibly grateful for their help.
In the month of March, we served and delivered approximately 16,000 meals. In April we delivered 11,052 meals and in May we delivered 14,477 meals. Right now we do not have a date for being able to resume congregant meals on site however any senior that would qualify to have a meal at a site can sign up to have a meal delivered or come to the site to pick up a meal each day. We have a drive through congregant program active at each site.
We are still looking for additional volunteers to deliver meals so if you or anyone you know might be interested in helping out the seniors in their community, please contact Becky Christa at 931-433-7182, ext. 1138.
Ruby, site manager for the Lincoln County Meal site, readies the lunches that are to go out.