Senior Cuisine Delivered is a culinary collaboration of local nonprofits
If assisting seniors had been the right thing to do before, it became essential given the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Even early on, it became common knowledge that COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was considered by healthcare experts to be especially dangerous to the older segments of the population.
Age Well Senior Services and Meals on Wheels Orange County had long been players in providing for the nutritional needs of seniors, but they stepped up to meet greater demand resulting from the pandemic.
The nonprofit organizations became administrators for the Great Plates Delivered program locally, as the two outfits split Orange County between them and served more than 10,000 seniors through the program from May to November.
“That program was created in order to help seniors stay safe at home during the pandemic,” Steve Moyer, the CEO of Age Well Senior Services, said of Great Plates. “Also, it was to help businesses in the food service industry keep afloat during the troubled times.”
Following their involvement in the Great Plates program, Age Well and Meals on Wheels found out just how much participants in the program had enjoyed receiving meals from restaurants and caterers. The phones rang off the hook with people asking for an option that would bring back the restaurant meals.
The result was a new collaboration called Senior Cuisine Delivered. Age Well and Meals on Wheels have teamed up to provide an affordable option for restaurant-quality meals to be delivered to the homes of older adults. Participants in the program must be at least 50 years old.
Senior Cuisine Delivered offers lunch and dinner with options for two-, four- and six-day delivery. Meals cost $9.95 per meal, including delivery, with no additional charges.
Moyer said the program was created in consultation with food providers the nonprofits had worked with for the Great Plates program. The feedback allowed them to identify ways to lower the cost.
In retaining the providers that were used for Great Plates, Moyer said it helps maintain a standard that they want to see in serving seniors.
“We know that they produce quality food and that all their drivers are vetted, and so it is a situation where we can depend on them,” Moyer said. “We can count on them serving and producing high quality. That’s really important to us, and we want the standards to be there because we are serving seniors, a more vulnerable population.”
Age Well serves South Orange County, including Corona del Mar, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Newport Coast. Meals on Wheels takes care of North Orange County, including Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach.
Holly Hagler, the chief executive of Meals on Wheels Orange County, said that prior to the pandemic, the organization would deliver meals to seniors who were homebound, and it provided a hot lunch at local senior centers.
“We do say that all of our programs are more than a meal because there is a little visit,” Hagler said. “It’s like a meal and a visit. If that person is coming to the door and they chat with you at the door, or if you stop by the senior center, you’re having a visit.
“A lot of that was stripped away because of social distancing and all that. That’s been hard on seniors. We’ve maintained it to the extent possible, but it’s nowhere near where it would normally be.”
Hagler said that if people continue to show interest in Senior Cuisine Delivered after the pandemic, the group would be open to continuing the program at that point.
“We’re going to continue to understand their needs and develop programs and solutions to really help them live in their homes for as long as they would like to because people love living in their homes,” Hagler said of the mission to help older adults. “They want to stay there as long as they can, and that’s what we’re committed to — supporting them to really live with wellness, purpose and dignity in their homes and in the communities that they love.”
Lillian Modzeleski, 80, of Costa Mesa, signed up to be in the Senior Cuisine Delivered program four days a week. She said she can cook, but it was not as enjoyable when she was only cooking for herself.
“You just stick it in the microwave, and they have something different all the time,” Modzeleski said. “That’s what I like about it is that you don’t get the same meals on a weekly basis. You get something new every day.”
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