Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging makes home-delivered meals available to more seniors during pandemic

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

Prepackaged meals for Douglas County area seniors are loaded into a delivery bag in this file photo from Sept. 27, 2011.

The Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging is making weekday meals available to Douglas County seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite closing the congregate meals sites it reestablished last October.

Susan Harris, Jayhawk AAA executive director, said the four congregate sites in the county were closed in March because of the pandemic, but they now serve as pickup locations where seniors or their caregivers can grab to-go meals on weekdays. The four sites are the PACE Center, 319 Perry St. in Lawrence; Babcock Place, 1700 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence; the Baldwin Senior Center, 1223 Orchard Lane; and the Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St.

The Jayhawk AAA senior meal program is available to all county residents 60 years of age or older, Harris said. Jayhawk AAA contracts with the Topeka-based Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas to provide the meals, she said. Seniors are asked to provide a small donation for the meals, but no payment is necessary for the service, she said.

In addition to the daily deliveries to the four pickup sites, Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas delivers meals to the homes of seniors throughout Douglas County, Harris said. The Jayhawk AAA home-delivered meals program is separate from Lawrence Meals on Wheels, which only delivers to Lawrence residents.

Before the pandemic, only medically homebound seniors were eligible for the Jayhawk AAA home-delivered meals, but that requirement went away when Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state disaster declaration in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said.

“We have seen an uptick in requests for home-delivered meals,” she said. “Additional people are wanting them, but we don’t know how many because our numbers run two months behind. We don’t have any numbers yet for during the pandemic.”

Before the pandemic struck, Jayhawk AAA had recently restarted its congregate meal sites program, which had been halted several years earlier because of declining use. Harris said the agency was encouraged by the number of seniors who visited the reestablished congregate meal sites, especially the ones at Babcock Place and the Eudora Community Center.

The Jayhawk AAA also offers a program called Choosing Healthy Appetizing Meal Plan Solutions for Seniors, or CHAMPSS, in which restaurants or grocery store cafeterias offer seniors low-cost weekday meals. During the pandemic, the Jayhawk AAA continues to offer the CHAMPSS program in Lawrence at three Dillons stores and the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee, Harris said.

Again, the agency doesn’t have current numbers of how the pandemic has affected the Lawrence CHAMPSS sites, but Harris said seniors are still participating in the program.

“There’s not been any reports of big changes,” she said. “I would imagine seniors are being smart and staying home. What hurt our Lawrence numbers the most was the closing of the Sixth Street Hy-Vee. It was our most popular site.”

Douglas County seniors or their caregivers can call 800-798-1366 to arrange for home-delivered meals, arrange to pick up a meal at one of the four drop-off sites or learn more about the CHAMPSS program.

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