Senior Meals

Fresh, nutritious lunches are served weekdays to seniors 60 and older at the McConnell Adult Education Center in Newman. The meals are prepared by the local school district, which recently was awarded a contract by the county to operate the program. Above, from left, Caroline Champion, staff member Kelsey Cunningham and Sonja Magee prepare plates.

NEWMAN - School lunches are proving popular among the senior in senior citizens.

Several diners at the community’s senior nutrition site, which the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District took over July 1, gave the new food high marks last week.

Freshly prepared, plated meals are being served up at the site, noted Caralyn Mendoza, who oversees the district’s nutritional services, which is a change from the pre-packaged meals that were prepared off-site, transported in and then re-warmed before being served at the McConnell Adult Education Center.

“I like this better myself,” said Ray Caseri, who has been a regular at the senior meals site for years. “It has fruit, and I think it is better nutrition.”

Previous providers were required to bring meals back up to temperature after they had been delivered to Newman, diner Caroline Champion noted. “By the time they did that, it was overcooked,” she stated.

Another regular, Debora Sweeter, said the food is the best she has experienced in six-plus years of participating in the meal program.

“It’s fresh,” she explained.

Retired teacher Sonia Magee said she would not eat the food previously served, but is enjoying the lunches provided by the school district. The program ensures that she has a convenient, well-rounded meal to help meet her nutritional needs and also provides seniors a valuable social connection.

The coffee is on when the room opens at 10 a.m. each weekday, and seniors are invited to gather to visit or play cards while waiting for the meal to be served around 11 a.m.

The district made several improvements to the room in which seniors gather each weekday, and added a television as well which they use not for shows but to tune in popular music of their era.

“They like to listen to the music, which is fine. It makes a fun atmosphere,” Mendoza remarked.

In addition to the meals served through the program, seniors can also pick up bakery items donated by Nob Hill Foods which are free for the taking.

Mendoza said she is pleased with the initial response to the changeover in the meal program.

Participation is increasing, she said, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (when a senior exercise program is held in an adjacent room) upward of 20 seniors turn out for lunch. She hopes the numbers continue to rise.

“People are hearing that it is good, and we’re getting new people who have never come in before,” Mendoza reported. “The word of mouth seems to be getting around.”

The senior nutrition site is open weekdays at the McConnell Adult Education Center next to Von Renner Elementary School. The room opens at 10, with lunch served at 11. The program is open to seniors 60 and older. Suggested donation is $3 per meal.