Levy Senior Center feeds the stomachs and souls of senior citizens with meal program


Daily File Photo by Madison Smith

The Levy Senior Center allows senior citizens above the age of 60 to share a meal and interaction with others.

Leah Schroeder, Reporter

Nora travels about 30 miles from Gurnee, Illinois to Evanston on the Metra every Tuesday and Thursday to share a meal with other Chicago area residents over the age of 60. 

Nora — a former Evanston resident who requested that only her first name be used for privacy reasons — has participated in the Levy Senior Center’s Senior Congregate Meal Program since it began around 10 years ago.

The Levy Center’s meal program provides meals for senior citizens in Evanston and surrounding areas. Each day, the program offers either five-day hot meal packs in-person or frozen meal packs available for pick-up or delivery. 

“(Seniors) enjoy it because it’s socializing,” Nora said. “People always enjoy eating with someone. Everyone should be so lucky. I wish everyone could have something like this.”

Program Coordinator Connor Schwarz recently took over the program and said his interactions with seniors have been rewarding. 

Seniors from Evanston and surrounding areas who are 60 and older are eligible for free meals and, according to Schwarz, the program currently services around 535 eligible seniors. 

About 12 to 15 seniors participate in the hot meal program daily, while about 25 partake in the frozen meal program, according to Schwarz. Beyond just meals, the Levy Senior Center also offers art, music and fitness classes. 

“This program is extremely important for the community just from the vast amount of people that we can reach,” Schwarz said. “The most rewarding part is the ability to give people meals who may not have the money for it. They get to leave with a meal (and) a full stomach.”

Participating seniors are not expected to make donations, but some contribute money when they take part in the meal program.

To keep the program operational, Schwarz must submit lunch orders for the food to then be prepared and served by kitchen staff at the senior center. Every day, recreational aide Joanie Jenkins prepares hot meals and serves them to seniors. She said the program helps build a sense of community.

“Being a part of the program is making the seniors happy, serving and interacting with them,” Jenkins said. “Someday I would want someone to treat me this way as well and be there for me. You try to be that way for others.”

The meal program receives more and more applications every day, according to Schwarz. Prospective participants must apply to the meal program and meet age requirements.  

“It’s really about interpersonal communication, being able to give them a meal and making them feel like they have that safe space,” Schwarz said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lmschroeder_

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