NEWMAN - Residents who utilize the local senior nutrition site for their daily lunches will soon be sitting down to meals prepared and served by school cafeteria staff.

The Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District assumes operation of the senior nutrition site Monday, July 1.

Meals are served daily at the McConnell Adult Education Center, located adjacent to Von Renner Elementary School.

Caralyn Mendoza, the district’s director of fiscal services, said a number of changes are planned for the program - from sprucing up the room in which meals are served to shifting from reheated meals to freshly-prepared lunches.

“The seniors are part of our community, and we are trying to better serve the community as a whole,” Mendoza told Mattos Newspapers. “The seniors need this service. It was kind of dwindling to the point where the county was considering closing the site if it dwindled further. We couldn’t let that happen.”

Those eating at the senior nutrition site will notice a number of differences, she pledged.

Currently, Mendoza said, pre-packaged meals have been trucked in from a central kitchen location and warmed on site.

Going forward, senior meals will be prepared fresh in the Von Renner kitchen.

“It will not be reheated, and there will be a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables,” Mendoza told Mattos Newspapers. “We are going to serve lunches as a plated meal. They won’t be plastic-wrapped and microwaved.”

Menus must be approved by a county dietitian, she noted. No repeat meals are allowed within the monthly menu.

Given the typically warm temperatures, Mendoza said, the July menu will include a number of salads and lighter items.

The meal site will continue to open at 10:30 a.m. weekdays for seniors who want to gather to enjoy coffee or just socialize.

Mendoza said the room used by the meals program has been repainted and had new flooring installed. A television will be added, she noted.

“We want it to be a very welcoming place where seniors feel like they can come and visit with their friends, a place that they look forward to coming to,” she told Mattos Newspapers. “I think the social aspect of the program is a very important component.”

The Newman site serves an average of 17 seniors a day, the level for which the district is funded.

Mendoza said she would like to see that number increase.

“There is a bigger need than what we are serving now,” she stated.

School food services staff prepared the meal for the recent Newman senior information day and received positive feedback, Mendoza remarked.

“Our staff is really looking forward to doing this,” she said.

The program is open to seniors 60 and older.

A $3 donation per meal is suggested.