By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
They come to the senior dining site for the conversation. The fact there is also food seems to be secondary.
"It's a pleasure to be able to meet other folks and talk," said Othil Otto. "We talk about all kinds of things," she said.
The dining site is located in the upstairs of the Winsted Legion Club, and "It's going better than I thought it would," said Lynn Peterson of Augustana Homes in Litchfield, which coordinates the program.
The basics of the dining program, which is called the Elderly Nutrition Program, are simple. Anyone can eat at the dining site.
For those over age 60, a donation of $2 is suggested. A $4 donation is suggested for those under 60, but if someone cannot afford the full cost, he/she will not be turned away.
To reserve a meal, one must call the Legion at 485-4366 one day in advance between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. It's between those times dining site supervisor Louise Cordell is on duty.
Those who eat at the dining site are also asked to volunteer. Some pick up and deliver the meals, which are prepared at St. Mary's Care Center.
About 36 meals are made per day. Three of the meals are delivered to residents of St. Mary's Apartments. One is delivered to the trailer court.
The volunteers are not limited to the diners, but anyone with some time can help. The volunteer list currently has about 12 names on it.
Leonard and Irene Rozeske volunteer for the pick up duties every other Thursday.
"It takes us only about 15 to 20 minutes," said Irene. "And since we can do this, why shouldn't we?" she said.
Others who can't pick up meals help in other ways at the site, setting the table, getting various food items ready, and taking the money for the meal.
Lunch is served at 11:30. Afterward, everyone who can pitches in for the clean up.
The funding for the meals comes from the state to to the Mid-Minnesota Area Agency on Aging which administers the program, in McLeod, Meeker, Renville, and Kandiyohi Counties.
The agency contracted with Augustana for nutrition services with Augustana on a "performance based" contract. Rather than a flat fee, Augustana is paid at a contract price per meal, which has proven to be more cost effective.
Augustana is not a government agency. Augustana is run by the Board of Social Ministry, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. It is a non-profit agency that has been providing church related services for 125 years.
An evaluation of the nutrition program was recently conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. of Princeton, N.J., in conjunction with the University of Minnesota.
It found what those who come to dinner also know - the healthful meal is just part of the program. Socializing with others is also a large benefit.
The meals are, the study said, " . . . the basis for social, health, and long-term protections for the elderly."
The study also had other key findings:
- Between 80 and 90 percent of participants are of low incomes, below 200 percent of poverty levels.
- More than twice as many participants live alone as compared to the overall elderly population.
- Approximately two-thirds of participants have some chronic health condition for functional impairment; are either overweight or underweight, placing them at increased risk for nutritional health problems.
To those who come to the dining site, the statistics
are not as important as what it provides for them, the place to
come and visit with others.