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Coventry seeks options for senior meals

By MICHELLE FIRESTONE

Chronicle Staff Writer

COVENTRY — The town is seeking solutions for the senior center lunch program, which was recently shut down by the local health department.

At the end of January, the Coventry Senior Center’s meal program was shut down, according to Town Manager John Elsesser.

Elsesser said the senior center, located at 172 Lake St., was using a program through Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC), in which MACC cooked the meals and they were served by senior center staff.

That program, however, wasn’t up to Eastern Highlands Health District standards because the meals weren’t served by MACC.

Elsesser said the senior center has staff certified to serve meals, but, according to health district standards, the senior center staff were not allowed to work under MACC’s certification.

Elsesser said the town needs to find a vendor that will offer a similar operation to the program offered by Thames Valley Council for Community Action or build its own commercial kitchen.

TVCCA was the previous lunch vendor, but it had to suspend its program due to financial issues late last year.

Elsesser said a commercial kitchen is a “very costly” operation and would need to meet national sanitation standards.

“It’s a major change in how we do business and we’ll look at that, but it becomes extremely expensive,” Elsesser said.

The town does not have an estimated commercial kitchen cost, but Elsesser said he did not think it would be a “viable option” because there is not enough space at the senior center anyway.

He said there would have to be two or three more sinks at the senior center for a commercial kitchen, for example.

Elsesser said the health district is working on providing temporary meal permits for specific events at the senior center, “but those are on a case-by-case basis.”

“We have an interim action plan that we can do some things, but we have to come up with a long-term solution,” he said.

One event the senior center is expecting to get a temporary permit for is the Volunteer Appreciation Brunch on Monday, Feb. 26, which starts at 11 a.m. at the senior center.

Elsesser said the health district would need to approve the menu for all events the senior center seeks a temporary permit for.

He said the senior center is going through the approval process for that event.

“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Elsesser said Monday.

Previously, TVCCA was preparing meals for the senior center.

Based in Jewett City, the private, nonprofit community action agency advocates for and serves the region’s economically and otherwise disadvantaged citizens.

Elsesser said TVCCA was running a program in which they would cook meals in a commercial kitchen, serve them at the senior center, clean up and leave.

He said that operation was like a “fully catered event from start to finish.”

“Due to federal budget cuts, they lost money and couldn’t run the program anymore,” said Elsesser.

Elsesser said 20 to 45 seniors were getting meals through the program, with prices ranging from $4 to $7 per meal. The meals were served twice a month.

Coventry Senior Center Coordinator Emma King deferred comment to Elsesser.

 

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