Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name… And they’re always glad you came …
Those lyrics arose from a famous sitcom of the 1980s, but they still ring true today at the Scotland County Senior Nutrition Center.
Monday through Friday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the local nutrition site hosts 50 or more area residents who gather to share a healthy meal while also getting some much needed social interaction.
“Sure they are coming here for lunch, but for many of them it also has a lot to do with sharing time with others,” said Nutrition Center Administrator Barbara Smith. “A lot of it has to do with the interaction with others. We definitely have a core group that are here pretty much every day.”
The senior center averages 45 patrons a day for the “congregate meals” which are those served in house.
“Sometimes the weather impacts our numbers, but most don’t let it slow them down,” said Smith. “The other day were closed because of the icy weather, and there was a couple, who are both over 90 that still showed up like usual only to find out we were closed.”
The center also provides an average of 25 additional meals for delivery through the local Meals on Wheels program administered by area churches.
“For some of our patrons of the meals on wheels program, it may be the only person those folks see all day,” said Smith.
Combined with the social interaction is the obvious nutritional benefit provided by the program.
All of the center’s menus are approved by a registered dietician, including at least three servings of fruit and vegetables and must contain at least 1/3 of the daily recommended nutritional values.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the United States population over age 60 has increased by nine percent since 2017 from 70.8 million to 77.1 million. According to studies of programs like the local nutrition center, 65% of patrons that participate in the congregate meal programs offered by such nutrition sites point to the service as a key in allowing them to maintain independence and continue living in their homes. That number rockets up to 94% for recipients of home-delivered meals. The federal government budgeted just over $900 million for nutrition programs in fiscal year 2019, part of the Administration for Community Living’s nearly $2 billion budget.
The Memphis facility is administered as part of the Northeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging, which funds the nutrition site through state and federal funds.
“Basically they provide roughly $2 per meal in funding to help us support the local center,” said Smith.
The administrator noted that facility depends upon local donations and fundraisers to help offset roughly $10,000 per year in funding shortfalls from the government programs.
“This community is very gracious to support our efforts,” she said. “The patrons themselves also go above and beyond with their contributions for the meals.”
Anyone 60 years or older is eligible to receive free meals at the center. Those patrons who are financially capable, are asked to make a contribution for each meal. Patrons that do not meet the age or disability requirements may still utilize the center’s services but they are asked to make a minimum contribution equivalent to the meal cost.
“Because we depend on these contributions, it is easy to see why numbers are critical to us,” said Smith.
She noted that may eligible county residents may chose not to use the services. Some indicate it is because it is a government assistance program, and they chose to avoid the appearance that they need help.
“For some there definitely appears to be a stigma that this is a sort of welfare program, and thus they avoid it because they don’t feel like they need any help,” she said. “What they may not understand is, that by coming in and supporting the center, making contributions for the meals they eat, they in fact are helping out others who are truly in need of the center for financial reasons.”
Smith noted that the support is even more important now that recent wage laws have forced payroll higher and put further strain on the center’s budget.
“We have a wonderful staff and I wish they all could be paid much more,” said Smith. “But it is simply a fact of business that when payroll goes up it means there has to be more revenue coming in to make the ends meet.”
In addition to Smith, the center employees Opal Blaine as part-time office assistant. Donna Walsh is the head cook, with Todd Cline, Susie Peterson and Brenda Eckland serving as assistant cooks. A number of volunteers also help work the front desk in addition to helping with the meal deliveries.
“We cannot thank these folks enough,” said Smith. “This is an area where we can always welcome additional support.”
The facility is governed by a local board. Chairman is Glen Lister and Ruth Carnes is vice chairperson. Maryanna Troutman serves as secretary and Ron Henkenius is treasurer. Board members also include Patty Golbricht, Terry Arnold, Marcia Mitchell, Diane Kight, Stanley Barker and Robert Moseley.
In an effort to boost the center’s revenues, an annual soup supper fundraiser will be held Sunday, February 23rd. The Scotland County Senior Nutrition Center will be serving from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and carry outs will be available. Call 465-7011. The center will be serving a variety of soups, including chili, potato, vegetable beef as well as ham and pimento cheese sandwiches, cherry cheesecake and homemade pie. The event asks for a free will donation and is open to the public regardless of age.
The group also hosted a booth at the Christmas Bazaar that helped raise money for the center through the sale of donated items. Area churches and community organizations have also hosted similar fundraisers for the center, which also benefits from memorial donations and other charities.