More than a Meal
Senior Meals Program
Meal time is approaching, and the hungry need to be fed.
Trucks are backed up to a loading dock. A sizable crew of cooks in crisp, white attire take direction from chef and Food Service Administrator Mike Afshar in a spotless, shiny commercial kitchen, built by the Army at a cost over $2.5 million dollars. Nutritionist Linda Armstrong, R.D. has developed a nutritionally sound, dietetically balanced, deliciously prepared meal to be placed in continuously heated carrying containers, loaded in trucks and transported to 28 sites around the city. It started almost three decades ago and hasn’t missed a beat.
But, according to Evelyn Dexter, seniors program administrator, the work in support of seniors is much more than the distribution of a meal. “Our mission is to provide services and opportunities that promote health, growth, safety, independent living, self-determination and community for older adults.” It involves working with site councils, stimulating feedback from recipients, and facilitating a ministry of caring for each individual. The program provides a wide range of activities from education and recreation to health screening and exercise. It provides case management under the direction of Glen Loutey, LCSW, who leads the work of a staff of social workers and interns. It also helps with translation assistance, transportation support and material aid. It, in effect, becomes a lifeline of support with counseling, visitation, information and referral. It uplifts people spiritually without preaching by simply revealing the love of Christ.
Annually, the seniors program prepares a gigantic picnic in the park with everything from all kinds of entertainment, information and referral booths, to haircuts and food. “It couldn’t be done every year without the great help we receive from volunteers and the community,” Dexter said. Of course, over twenty years of experience doesn’t hurt. “This is not simply a food service programs, it’s a calling.”
Older citizens make up almost a quarter of San Francisco’s population, and the fastest growing age group is comprised of those over 85. More than one-third of those over 65 live alone and 74 percent of those are women. A sizable number live below the poverty line, with many in substandard housing The Salvation Army has assessed the needs of this population and has developed a working program to meet those needs.