SIKESTON -- Daily hot meals will soon be replaced by a week's worth of pre-
plated meals for some of the area's homebound senior citizens.
Beginning next week, a new system of meal services will be made available to homebound senior citizens in New Madrid, Portageville, Hayti and Caruthersville.
"This is an attempt to make some changes and maintain a very large program in that area, but also provide them with real products," said Lana Johnson, nutrition project director for the Southeast Missouri Agency on Aging. Johnson said the four towns were chosen to pilot the program because their local contributions to the Meals on Wheels program were the lowest in the area.
"More people need this program, and we were looking for extra dollars -- and this is a way of meeting that need," Johnson said.
But Johnson noted the change should be a positive one for both the senior citizens and the four nutrition center volunteers/employees.
"There will no longer be a need for the client to schedule doctor visits according to their homebound meals delivering schedule," Johnson said. "Clients will no longer go without a meal on the holidays when the center is closed or on days of bad weather when the center is closed."
With the change to the total meal system called Sun Meadow, meals will be delivered one time a week and require only minimum freezer/refrigeration space requirements. Meals can be heated by microwave, toaster oven or oven. Johnson said a board looked at three different companies before choosing the Sun Meadow meal system.
According to Johnson, Sun Meadow is a quality meal service with all of the meal components in one package and delivered together to minimize delivery costs, save time and offer the client the opportunity to make their own daily menu choices at whatever time they wish to eat their meal.
The centers will also work around the senior citizens' schedules when making the weekly deliveries.
"This is a high quality food product and a lot better than what you could buy somewhere else," Johnson said.
Kaye Kuntscher, area supervisor of the four senior centers, said letters were sent to all 500-600 homebound clients in the four towns explaining the new meal system.
"I think it will work out better," Kuntscher said. "One of the problems we run into (with the hot meals) is keeping them hot enough when they're delivered so this will eliminate that problem."
Another good thing is anybody can eat this meal -- even diabetics, Kuntscher said. The lunches meet the one-third daily recommended intakes required by the Administration on Aging. Each meal consists of an entree, two vegetables, bread and margarine and fruit or dessert. Milk will also be delivered to the clients.
The meals comply with sodium, fat and calcium levels according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is not used in any of the lunches.
Kuntscher noted meal variety is another plus of the service. The entire selection includes over five weeks of various menus without meal repeats which offers 13 different dessert selections and 19 different bread selections.
For example, lunches available for July include entrees such as roast beef with mushroom grave, southwestern chicken, Swedish meatballs and noodles.
Friday marks the last day the hot lunch plates will be delivered on a daily basis to the residents in the four towns, Johnson noted. Although feedback is expected following the delivery of the new meals, Johnson said she has already heard from some senior citizens.
"A lot of people are more curious right now than anything," Johnson said. "They want to know what this change means and what do the meals look like and when will they be delivered."
Johnson said it's possible other area senior centers could switch to the new meal system in the future.
"We're excited about it, and it's a new frontier for us," Johnson said.