Commission on Aging program delivers record number of meals
Tue, 12/08/2020 - 12:40pm caleb
Senior Center continues to offer food and other services throughout COVID-19 pandemic
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center may still be “closed” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s had busy year, including a record number of deliveries through its Meals on Wheels program.
In March, the first stay-at-home executive orders forced the closure of many businesses and other facilities, including the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center, and while many of those places have been able to re-open over the past several months, the Senior Center remains closed to the public; however, COA workers and volunteers have continued their efforts to help local seniors throughout the current pandemic.
Alice Snyder, Director of the Crawford County Commission on Aging, said the local Meals on Wheels program, during the Senior Center’s latest fiscal year – from October 2019 through September 2020 – delivered approximately 37,000 meals, 12,000 more than the previous year.
“I’ve been here 16 years and that’s the highest it’s ever been,” Snyder said. “That’s a huge jump for us.”
Snyder said the increase was due to COVID-19 issues and to other illnesses that typically affect seniors.
“It’s really a combination of things,” Snyder said.
The local Meals on Wheels program provides food to Crawford County seniors (age 60 and up) who qualify. Snyder said the Senior Center has a social worker who conducts assessments on applicants and people are approved based on “physical ability and needs,” whether or not they’re physically able to shop for food and prepare meals. Some seniors get Meals on Wheels on a temporary basis due to an illness or other medical issue (such as a surgery), Snyder said. The process also looks at an applicant’s “support system.”
“We see a lot of older adults that don’t have a lot of social support, family and friends that don’t live in the community,” Snyder said.
Snyder said the Meals on Wheels program has an annual budget of $187,000 ($100,000 from the COA’s operating millage, 31 percent from state and federal grants, and the rest from donations). Snyder said many senior centers have waiting lists for their Meals on Wheels programs, but Crawford County’s does not.
“We are really trying to help them when they need help and avoid those wait lists,” Snyder said.
Meals on Wheels recipients can get two meals per day that are delivered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (hot meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and frozen meals for Tuesdays and Thursdays). Snyder said the meals include an entree, two side vegetables, fresh fruit, and a carton of milk.
“The meals are approved by a dietician. We have very specific nutritional guidelines we have to follow by state and federal rules,” Snyder said.
The food has to meet requirements with regard to sodium, fat, and calorie content, she said.
“They’re nutritionally balanced. It’s a healthy, nutritional meal,” Snyder said.
Snyder said most of the meals are delivered by volunteers, which helps keeps costs down. The Crawford County Commission on Aging also contracts with the Crawford County Transportation Authority on some Meals on Wheels deliveries.
“The cost of our meals remains low. One of the ways that happens is using volunteer drivers. We have been very blessed all these years being able to deliver with volunteer support,” Snyder said.
Snyder said the community has provided a lot of support to the program through donations.
“We got a huge amount of support from the community for Meals on Wheels and that was a huge blessing for us. We hope that continues this year,” Snyder said.
(People can donate online at www.crawfordcoa.org, call the office at (989) 348-7123, or mail a check payable to COA to 308 Lawndale St, Grayling, MI, 49738, and note that the donation is for Meals on Wheels.)
Snyder said the Crawford County Senior Center, like many others in the state, has remained closed “because we serve the at-risk population,” but the COA has continued many of its services, including respite care, housekeeping, and providing meals. In place of the dine-in meals offered by the Senior Center, the COA has been providing the food on a take-out basis. People can pick up the meals – they’re the same ones as those delivered through the Meals on Wheels program – Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a suggested donation ($3.50 for people over the age of 60, $6 for people under 60).
Snyder said the COA has had to suspend its recreation activities held at the Senior Center but it has continued a few things online, including Bingo, exercise classes through Zoom, and its introduction to Zoom courses.
“Our biggest challenge is we miss everybody. Our senior center is a busy place with activities all week long. They miss being here and we miss having them here,” Snyder said.
The COA was able to conduct its Walk in the Woods program during the summer months, offering guided hikes for seniors.
“That was well received again. The outside stuff was a lot easier from the COVID standpoint,” Snyder said.
The Commission on Aging has also been busy with its new facility project. In March, Crawford County voters approved a bond issue for a new Senior Center facility. The COA purchased a building on M-72 (formerly Mayday Windows) and it is now in the “design and development phase” of the project. Renovations will include the addition of a full commercial kitchen, offices, and an exercise studio, Snyder said.
Snyder said “it’s been a slow process” but the COA is hoping to put the renovation project out for bids in January.
The Senior Center’s website – www.crawfordcoa.org – has a Virtual Town Hall Meeting video that offers more information about the project.
Snyder said the COA hopes to be in the new building by September of 2021.
She said the Commission on Aging appreciates the community’s support of the new facility project.
“All the years I’ve lived here, this community has been incredibly supportive of the bond proposals. I think that melds with the general feeling in this community that people take care of each other. It’s a nice community to work in when you’re in social service and you’ve got that much community support,” Snyder said.