McDonald County Senior Center Sells Too Few Meals, May Lose Funding
PINEVILLE — The McDonald County Senior Center must sell 50 meals a day to receive full funding for center programs, according to a mandate set by the state.
Louine Gardner, manager of the McDonald County senior center for 14 years, said the facility serves meals five days a week over Christmas, where the senior center is located, and serves meals at church. Pineville Methodist every Tuesday. Meals are $3.50 for people over 60 and $7 for people 59 and under. Gardner said the menu varies daily. Gardner said on July 12, the center will sell meals consisting of beef enchiladas, Mexican rice, refried beans and toppings at the Methodist Church. Catering will be available at the church from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Gardner added that the McDonald County Senior Center provides food for people confined to the home, although those meals are not counted when working toward the 50 meals a day goal.
“We have 67 housebound clients,” Gardner said. “We bring them food once a week,” Gardner said, noting that the center leaves various meals for homebound clients, providing them with enough food for a week.
Gardner said the McDonald County Senior Center typically sold 15 to 20 meals a day when it served at Christmas and sold about 40 meals when it served food at the Methodist Church when he last visited, still under his goal. Gardner said a consistent average is 27 meals sold per day.
“Counting the church and what we did here, this Tuesday, we had 42 people,” Gardner said. “We’re not hitting the target. We’re not going to do it every day, but if we could get closer to what we need, we’d be better off.”
Gardner said the center cannot currently sell take-out food, although it can during the peak of covid-19.
“At the moment we cannot do transportation, hopefully we can soon,” Gardner said. “It’s before Congress that we need to do take-out, which would really help our situation,” Gardner said, noting that those meals could be counted as they work toward their daily goal.
Gardner said the center has struggled to meet its daily quota for about four years. Gardner noted that the quota was easier to hit at any given time because meals on wheels were counted toward the center’s goal.
Jennifer Shotwell, chief executive of the Area Agency on Aging, said she was corresponding with Gardner as the senior center worked to meet its quota. Shotwell said funding for the center came from British Columbia Title III funding, which provides support and nutritional services.
“The state law under which we operate provides that if we serve less than 50 meals a day, on average in a month, we must apply for a waiver in order for our funding to be distributed to this senior center,” said Shotwell.
Shotwell said the McDonald County Senior Center does not receive funding directly, but rather through the Regional Agency on Aging.
Shotwell said that with funding that may be lost, fewer programs can be funded for the senior center.
“It’s not so much that they would get more funding, but by bringing in more seniors, we’re more likely to be able to program more programs in that area,” Shotwell said. “To get people there to present to 10 or 12 people, it’s just easier to send them to Neosho where they go to see 50 people.”
Shotwell said the Regional Agency on Aging wants to distribute the funds where they will have the most impact.
“Because we have to employ four people, maintain an expensive kitchen full of equipment, and provide the cost of food, we obviously want to make sure we’re spending those dollars in an area where it helps the majority of older people access our services. and our nutrition services,” Shotwell said.
Shotwell said that in McDonald County, according to the US census, there are about 3,500 people over the age of 65.
“We’re worried we won’t see more than 10 or 15 in this center,” Shotwell said.
Those interested in purchasing meals can shop Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Pineville Methodist Church.