Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Seniors Want Hot Lunches

Fran Benson, executive director of the Union County Division on Aging, listens to Hyacinth Branker, 83, while visiting the Semior Center Tuesday.

In response to a petition campaign for hot meals at the Senior Center, Union County Division on Aging Executive Director Fran Benson paid a visit Tuesday to discuss the whys and wherefores of the federal nutrition program now in effect at two sites in Plainfield.

The request dates back to May 2007, when center member Rasheed Abdul-Haqq garnered 32 signatures of regular attendees who would like to have hot meals on site. In a letter to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Abdul-Haqq asked for either a hot meal program or transportation to nearby Richmond Towers, where the program is in operation. At the time, seniors expected a new center to be complete in December 2007.

Benson explained federal health regulations that govern the preparation, transportation and distribution of the meals, which come from a central kitchen in Linden. The food must be kept at certain temperatures in special trucks and nutrition sites must have double sinks, which the existing leased center lacks. There is no fee to recipients, but donations to the program are accepted.

Budget constraints and other factors do not permit Benson to make any promises, she said, but meanwhile she urged seniors to make reservations and take part in the "Senior Cafe" program.

"Give it a shot," she said. "Rasheed, you're in charge."

As explained in brochures she handed out, the program is open to all adults age 60 and older, and their spouses, at more than 20 Senior Cafes in Union County. Plainfield sites are Richmond Towers and Plainfield Tower West. The suggested donation for meals planned by a nutritionist is $1.75 and the program operates Monday through Friday. Reservations must be made two days in advance.

The program is funded through the federal Older Americans Act.

"Try it out - give me feedback," Benson said.

Abdul-Haqq said he would see that members gave the program a try.

Benson visited in conjunction with the mayor's monthly visit. Among many comments, the mayor said she will be meeting this week with representatives of the development firm that is still working on the new senior center. She also noted the hiring of three police officers, two of whom are children of city employees.

Robinson-Briggs said she is still discussing operation of Dudley House with the Plainfield-based Organization for Recovery. The residential treatment center currently has no clients, but is now handicapped accessible to meet state licensing requirements. City Council members have asked for Dudley House to be operated by an outside agency instead of city staff.

The mayor touched on numerous other issues, urging support of a pension deferral plan that she said will cut the city budget by $2.5 million, and hailing possible development of a banquet hall in the PNC Bank building. She told seniors the city has a verbal agreement but none in writing with Solaris Health Systems, parent of the now-closed Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, for certain concessions. City officials have asked for an extra ambulance and expanded transportation to other hospitals since the closing.

The mayor visits the center on the first Tuesday of each month.

--Bernice Paglia

7 Comments:

Blogger Maria said...

Bernice,

Thanks for the report on seniors. For a long time I have been wondering why is it that Plainfield doesn't have "Meals-on-Wheels" for seniors. I still wondered why this service hasn't happened yet. Lack of will and interest on the part of our city officials?

When I was on Bergen County I used to volunteer once a month to deliver meals to seniors and one has no idea how much this service is needed by some of them until you actually see it with your own eyes. It's a real shame that our Plainfield seniors haven't been given this service.

As for hot meals? Isn't it shameful that our seniors have to demand for it or travel to a different place to get a warm meal?

Thanks for opening our eyes to this kind of lack on senior services.

Maria Pellum

9:04 AM  
Anonymous T Reed said...

Maria,
You are comparing Burgen County to Plainfield. Be specific - which municipality paid for those meals? Remember we are talking about paying for the meals. Was it the county or municipality?

If things were so good, why did you leave?

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

T. Reed: It makes sense to ask how those meals were paid for. On the other hand, it is insulting to see a comment like "...why did you leave?"

That's just another kind of slap we don't need here in Plainfield. And it demeans the reasonable portion of your comment.

If seniors need to have hot meals that they might not otherwise get, why not offer solutions?

2:10 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

T Reed,

Nowhere do I see a comparison drawn between Plainfield and Bergen County, I was just merely sharing an experience.

Why did I leave Bergen County? Will you be happy if I said because of our business' location? We chose Plainfield among the many places we had on mind because of its rich architecture, diversity, and many possibilities for growth. Eventually. I hope.

With this said, seniors are still lacking services in Plainfield when compared to any other municipality, even around Union County. Why is that less questionable than my comments?

Sad.

MP

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maria, you did not answer my question. You are comparing Plainfield to Bergen County. A municipality to a county.

You are asking why is Plainfield not paying for those meals. Well did Bergen County pay for those meals or did a specific municipality pay for those meals?

There is a difference and you should answer the question. If you do not know, then you should not put up such comparisions.

So I ask again - who paid for the meals in Bergen County? Which municipality specifically?

T Reed

10:26 AM  
Blogger Bernice said...

The federal nutrition program comes through the state and counties. There is a Meals on Wheels program which serves individuals. The two sites serve senior facilities. So now can we move on to other subjects?

10:49 AM  
Anonymous T Reed said...

Maria, meals on wheels does exist in Plainfield and as pointed out by Bernice, is a state and county program. I personally know one senior citizen benefiting from such a program.

Easy to take pot shots Maria but at least get the facts straight.

Since this is not a municipal program, why blame the Plainfield city officials?

That is what is sad about our town. We pick on each other all the time, even when it is completely unwarranted. Our energies go to destroying each other. Ever wonder why Plainfield is in the state it is in? This is an excellent example of why.

10:54 PM  

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