For the past few weeks, Turlock senior citizen Jean Mayhall has had to struggle to get the nutrition she needs. Mayhall used to get five hot meals a week through the Senior Meals Program provided by Howard Training Center. Just over a month ago, the program reduced the number of meals it serves to approximately 1,100 senior citizens at congregate sites around the county due to a funding shortfall.
At the Turlock senior meals congregate site, meals were reduced from five days a week to three.
Since the reduction, Mayhall has had to drop in on her kids for mealtime, visit the Daily Bread lunch truck operated by the United Samaritans Foundation and occasionally just go without.
“(The reduction in meals) affects my food budget. In my case, it’s really important that I live within my means,” Mayhall said.
The reductions were necessary, said Geri Lewis of Howard Training Center, because of the increased demand for the meals. Howard Training Center is contracted to serve 65,000 meals a year at congregate sites around the county. With two months left in the fiscal year, the center had already served 61,024 meals.
The approximately 1,100 homebound seniors provided meals through the program have still been receiving the same number of meals, Lewis said, just delivered at one time instead of multiple days.
The center decided to reduce the number of meals served at every site in the county in order to provide at least a few meals a week to everyone. In order to continue serving at all Howard Training Center launched a frantic fundraising campaign.
Over the past month, $51,246.46 has been donated to the Senior Meals Program, said Lewis, however, the program still needs more than $80,000 to operate through the end of June.
On July 1, a new fiscal year begins and with it comes additional funding from the state, county and local cities.
“With funding that has already come in and funding we expect to come in, we plan to start serving meals five days a week again in July,” Lewis said.
The return of meals being served five days a week at the Turlock Salvation Army Senior Center will be welcome news to many of the local seniors who rely on the service, not just for food but also for socialization.
“It’s nice to be here and socialize with people. It’s something to look forward to,” said local senior Richard Ackerman.
“It’s a reason for me to get up, get dressed and come over here for entertainment. There are people to talk to, without this I’d be at home all day,” said Turlock senior Joey. “It’s for my social, mental health, physical health — it’s good for me.”
Joey is one of the seniors who also rely on the Senior Meals Program because she is physically unable to cook.
“I have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s hard for me to cook; I rely on (the senior meals) for my dinner. If I don’t have the senior meals, I don’t have a hot dinner,” she said.
While Howard Training Center expects to resume serving the same number of meals it always has come July, changes will have to be made in the future, said Lewis, including a possible wait list.
“We will feed the folks we have right now, and have the money for, and we’ll go forward from there,” Lewis said.
To donate to the Senior Meals Program, visit www.howardtrainingcenter.com and find the Support HTC tab, or call Director Claudia Miller at 595-1844.