Evanston receives over $40,000 in federal grant for senior meal program

Robin Opsahl , Reporter

Evanston’s Human Services Committee has renewed funding for the city’s senior meal program, giving more than $40,000 this year to the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center and the Levy Senior Center.

This is the fifth year Evanston centers are hosting the senior meal program, a service where Evanston residents more than 60 years old are able to go to community centers to get a home-cooked meal. The Levy center offers this service five days a week, and Fleetwood-Jourdain community center provides meals every Wednesday. The program is funded through a grant from AgeOptions, the regional agency that distributes federal funding under the Older Americans Act.

Leslie Wilson, the program coordinator at the Levy center, said the center is working on increasing participation for the program and hopes to better advertise its accessibility. Wilson said she wants residents to know they are not going to turn anyone away.

“There’s no reason for people to be going hungry or eating badly when we have resources like this available,” she said. “We have the means to help people in our community, and we need to make sure they know and take advantage of them.”

Wilson said the program serves more than 8,000 meals a year at Levy center and more than 1,200 meals a year at Fleetwood-Jourdain community center. Each senior pays $4.50 for the meal — however, no eligible seniors are denied participation because of inability to contribute.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said that a focus of the program is making sure low-income seniors in the community are fed, although senior residents of all socioeconomic levels are eligible.

“For older people, if you don’t have family or friends looking out for you, it can be very hard,” Holmes said. “With the grant money awarded for this program, we make sure that first, people have a place to get nutritious food, and second, that they have access to food despite fiscal problems. This is something seniors in our community need and depend on.”

Carl Caneva, assistant director for the city’s health and human services, said this year the program is being run through a contract with Hoffman House. This is different from in the past because the new catering service will provide deli sandwiches and soup twice a week, which will provide more meal options for seniors, he said.

“This is the first congregate meal plan for the Chicago North Shore area,” Caneva said. “We’re always trying to make things better — giving more options and changing according to feedback is always important.”

Wilson said the program is vital for older people who are not able to cook or who live alone. She said seniors are less likely to eat nutritiously because fast food and junk food are cheaper and easier to prepare.

“We want to make sure the seniors in our area are eating well and keeping healthy — not just letting themselves go because no one’s checking up on them,” Wilson said. “We want to be here for them.”

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