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Chatham Partnership helps restart frozen meals for people in need

Posted Thursday, November 7, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Thanks to the generous financial support and a unique county partnership, the Chatham County Council on Aging has been able to restart a program in late October that provides frozen meals for qualified clients. The agency also is working with Farmer Foodshare to provide fresh produce.

"We are so grateful for the support of Carolina Meadows Retirement Community, the Chatham County Department of Social Services and the Board of Commissioners. They made it possible to restart a much-needed program out of the senior centers in Siler City and Pittsboro," said Angel Dennison, executive director of the Chatham County Council on Aging.

The Council reports that the waiting list of those wanting to receive Meals on Wheels continues to grow quickly. "Until the economic downturn forced us to cut the program, we were able to help those on the waiting list by offering them frozen meals they could pick up five days a week," Dennison said.

The frozen food items are the same foods served in both senior centers' lunchrooms and through the Meals on Wheels program. These meals are prepared and cooked in the commercial kitchen in the Western Senior Center in Siler City.

The Council's Strategic Planning Committee, comprised of board members and staff, made it a priority to restart the frozen meals program. The Chatham County Board of Commissioners agreed to match half the money ($17,188) if the Council could raise the remaining half.

"Megan Coggins on our staff met with Amy Gorely at Carolina Meadows," said Dennison. "They were interested in funding this program in partnership with the Council, Chatham County, and the Department of Social Services as part of their community collaboration outreach for older adults."

During the partners' meetings, the Council agreed to changes in criteria of qualified applicants, as requested by Ethel Farrell, adult services supervisor for the county's Department of Social Services (DSS).

"At Social Services, we serve a number of people who don't meet the aged 60 or older threshold of the initial design of the project," said Farrell. "These clients often don't have the skills to prepare meals for themselves. The team agreed to lower the qualifying age to 55 year and older, which is a growing area of need in our community."

Gorely, who serves as director of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach at Carolina Meadows, took the final proposal to the Council on Aging for approval on Oct. 4, 2013.

Gorely said, "Carolina Meadows has a broad mission to enrich and serve the lives of seniors, and we are so excited to be able to support this innovative partnership which will provided needed food to older adults in Chatham County. Supporting efforts to get food to older adults is a high priority of our grants and outreach program this year, and the organization gave special support to make this project happen."

The funding will be used between now and June 30, 2014 to provide meals to qualified applicants identified by the Council on Aging and the Department of Social Services.

The Council on Aging contacted all qualified clients on a waiting list for Meals on Wheels and former frozen meal recipients to solicit participants. Thus far, 14 Council on Aging clients and six Social Services clients have opted to receive the frozen meals.

"We especially want to get the word out to the eastern parts of the county where we do not have routes for Meals on Wheels." Dennison said. "We also know that our community collaborators will help us reach more people in need as well."

Another component in the works is the partnership with Farmer Foodshare, which will help facilitate the delivery of fresh local produce to those signing up for frozen meals as well as other older adults in need.

"We hope to have more news on the Farmer Foodshare component in November," Dennison said. "In addition to supplying people in the community, we plan to buy enough produce from them to use in our daily preparation of about 250 meals served through our senior centers and Meals on Wheels."

David Marty, president of the Council on Aging's Board of Directors, said, "We appreciate the funding provided by the Board of Commissioners and Carolina Meadows to help us get food and nutrition to isolated and underserved older adults and adults with disabilities in our community. It shows that people in Chatham County do care and are working steadily to improve quality of life and health for the most vulnerable."

Residents interested in the frozen meals program should contact Denise Gilmore, nutrition program manager, at 919-742-3975.

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Chatham Partnership helps restart frozen meals for people in need

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