Senior Meal program never stopped during pandemic, continues to serve. 

January 26, 2022

Lois Cole delivers meals to Longfellow Towers in Ludington.

Senior Meal program never stopped during pandemic, continues to serve. 

Spartan News is a presentation of Mason County Central Schools in partnership with Mason County Press.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — Throughout the pandemic, Mason County Senior Meals has never stopped serving its clients, delivering meals every weekday. The program, which delivers meals to over 160 homebound seniors daily, along with meals to local senior centers. 

“We never stopped delivering, even in those early days of COVID when nobody really was sure what was going on,” said Mary Ann Nielsen, director of Mason County Central Food Service, which administers and operates the program. “As the schools were shutting down, along with many other parts of society, I spoke to my staff and asked them what they wanted to do. I told them that if they did not feel safe or comfortable, then we would stop delivering. Every single team member said that we should continue and that if we didn’t they would deliver food on their own to their clients.” 

Lois Cole delivers a meal to Darlene Roedig of Scottville.

For over 30 years, MCC has administered the program. 

“The meals consist of a hot lunch delivered every weekday morning,” Nielsen said. “That meal includes a main entree, vegetable, fruit, break, and milk. An optional cold second meal is also provided for breakfast and/or dinner along with frozen meals for the weekends. Customers who are able pay a suggested donation of $3 per meal. Customers who do not meet qualifications may still order meals at $6 per meal, paid upon delivery.

“This is unique because many senior meal programs do not deliver every day.” 

Meals are offered through legislation created by the Older Americans Act of 1965. In 1972, President Richard Nixon amended the act and established a national nutrition program for seniors ages 60 and older. Funds come from the Area Agency on Aging, United Way of Mason County, Mason County Council on Aging and customer donations.

In observance of Community Champions Week, Mary Ann Nielsen, director of MCC Food Service, hosted some community leaders and the media to share information about the program.

“The program is helpful to ensure a balanced nutritious diet and provide for those who have difficulty preparing food for themselves,” Nielsen said. “Our program helps seniors to stay in their homes and maintain a desirable weight.”

“It’s more than a meal,” Nielsen said. “Our delivery persons keep an eye out for each customer and get to know many of them. The drivers really get to know each client’s pattern and their behaviors and are often the only interaction the clients have daily.”

Preparing the lunches.

Nielsen said drivers will often discover clients who have fallen down or are in need of medical care. Sadly, there are also times when they have discovered clients who have passed away.

“Most of the time, it’s a very rewarding experience and the clients are very appreciative,” Nielsen said.

“I’m not usually able to leave the house, so this has been a great program,” said Scottville resident Darlene Roedig. “I enjoy the lunches, especially the meatloaf and tacos. The delivery staff is also great and always friendly. It helps brighten my day.”

The program also provides lunches for Scottville Area Senior Center, Ludington Area Senior Center, and Tallman Senior Center in Sheridan Township. Those meals include a hot entree, bread, milk, and a full salad bar. Like the delivered meal, the cost is a suggested donation of $3 per meal. 

The meals are prepared daily under the direction of head cook Lois Cole in the MCC Middle School kitchen. The staff there not only prepares the senior meals but also prepares 1,000 school lunches and 400 breakfasts daily for MCC Middle School, MCC Upper Elementary, Scottville (lower) Elementary, Victory Early Childhood Center, West Shore Educational Service District, Gateway to Success Academy, Ludington Area Catholic School, and the FiveCAP, Inc. Head Start center in Fountain. The food service program also prepares meals for MCC high school students in that building’s kitchen. 

Most of the delivered meals for seniors and the schools leave the middle school by 10:30 a.m. The senior meals are delivered by four drivers who bring meals to seniors throughout Mason County, traveling a combined 425 miles per day.

To learn more about the senior meal program, call 231-757-5721 or email mnielsen@mccschools.org.

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