Jayhawk AAA reintroduces senior meal sites in Douglas County

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Wilbur Heath shares a laugh with Rhonda Seitz on Dec. 18, 2019, while eating a meal at the Eudora Community Center congregate meal site. Seitz delivers the meals to four county sites, which Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas prepares and distributes under a contract with the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging.

On a recent Thursday, Dorothy Resco and Wilbur Heath enjoyed a noon meal and conversation with Rhonda Seitz at the Eudora Community Center.

Seitz had delivered the meals Resco and Heath were eating through her job with Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas.

She had time to visit with Resco and Heath because the Eudora Community Center was the last of four Douglas County sites where she delivers the meals that her employer prepared in Topeka. The Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging contracts with Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas to provide the meals to the Douglas County sites, she said.

“We started delivering meals to Douglas County on October 1,” Seitz said. “We’ve contracted to provide home-delivered meals in Douglas County since October 2018.”

Daily attendance at the Eudora site ranges from five to eight seniors, Seitz said. That particular day was slow, and several of the usual diners picked up meals to take home, she said. She was not surprised to see her “regulars” Resco and Heath.

Heath said he has dined at the Eudora congregate meal site since its Oct. 1 opening. He cooks but is grateful for the convenience of the prepared meals.

“They’re good,” he said. “We have turkey today. It’s real turkey with mashed potatoes. They’re healthy meals. They give us lots of vegetables.”

Broccoli, Jell-O and a carton of milk rounded out the meal that day, Resco said.

Susan Harris, Jayhawk AAA executive director, said the opening of four Douglas County congregate meal sites represented a return to a previous Jayhawk senior nutrition service model. Four years ago, the agency closed congregate meal sites in the county in favor of its CHAMPSS program, in which restaurants or grocery store cafeterias offer seniors low-cost weekday meals. CHAMPSS stands for Choosing Healthy Appetizing Meal Plan Solutions for Seniors. Although the Jayhawk AAA continues to offer the CHAMPSS program in Lawrence at three Dillons stores and the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee, it never found a partner in Eudora or a sustainable one in Baldwin City, she said.

That lack of CHAMPSS partners in the smaller communities and an awareness that CHAMPSS wasn’t reaching enough seniors in eastern and northern Lawrence, prompted the Jayhawk AAA to reintroduce the congregate meal sites. In addition to the Eudora Community Center, the Douglas County congregate meal sites are located at the PACE Center, 319 Perry St. in Lawrence; Babcock Place, 1700 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence; and the Baldwin Senior Center, 1223 Orchard Lane.

Harris said all Jayhawk nutrition programs were available to Douglas County residents 60 years of age or older. A $4 per meal donation is requested. More information on the Jayhawk AAA nutrition programs is available online at jhawkaaa.org or by calling 800-798-1366.

Seniors are asked to give congregate sites a one-day notice of their intention to eat at a site, Seitz said. Seniors also can indicate days they plan to dine on schedules available at the congregate sites, she said.

Harris said Jayhawk AAA worked with the city of Eudora before selecting the Community Center as a congregate site.

The Eudora Community Center and Babcock Place sites have proven popular, Harris said. In the 20 weekdays the sites were open in November, 359 meals were served at Babcock Place and 103 in Eudora. By contrast, only 36 were served at the Baldwin City site.

“I think that will grow as word gets out,” she said.

Sally Pennington, Eudora Parks and Recreation director, said the congregate site was a good fit for the Community Center.

“We have some people who the only time they interact with others is when they come here for a meal,” she said. “To see our seniors enjoying a healthy meal and good company, to me, that’s what a community center is all about.”

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