Placer nonprofit loses senior meal-delivery contract to Meals on Wheels

01/14/2014 6:19 PM

01/14/2014 6:20 PM

Seniors First, the nonprofit agency that administers Placer County’s federally funded seniors programs, lost its contract late last week to deliver meals to more than 100 homebound seniors.

The Area 4 Agency on Aging board instead awarded the Meals on Wheels contract for the Placer suburbs and foothills communities to Meals on Wheels by ACC, which since 2010 has been the senior nutrition provider for Sacramento County.

The $85,000 contract for the remainder of the fiscal year ends June 30 but can be renewed for up to three years.

Eldon Luce, a board member, said Seniors First is considering appealing the decision to the California Department of Aging. “I’m in the process of reviewing whether there’s grounds for appeal,” he said.

The action comes a little more than two months after Seniors First turned its Meals on Wheels program over to the Area 4 Agency on Aging, blaming a cash flow problem left by the federal government shutdown and the federal sequester. Seniors First had applied to get the the program back.

“The people getting home-delivered meals are the most frail and isolated,” said Pam Miller, executive director of the Area 4 Agency on Aging, which oversees Older Americans Act programs in the seven-county Sacramento region. “With Seniors First, our concern was, they’ve shut down before, several years ago. Often, they’re having difficult financial issues.

“With Meals on Wheels by ACC, the board didn’t feel we would have interruption of service.”

Seniors First continues to operate eight seniors cafes serving hot meals during the week.

Until the end of October, Placer’s homebound senior nutrition recipients got hot meals delivered daily to their homes – unlike Sacramento’s 1,100 home-bound Meals on Wheels clients, who for years have received a once-weekly package of five frozen meals that they can reheat.

Without the meals delivered each day, said Luce, the most vulnerable older adults often have no one check on them. But senior nutrition experts consider weekly deliveries more cost-effective in trying economic times.

“We were aware that the Seniors First meals program was struggling last year,” said Donna Yee, executive director of the Asian Community Center, the parent organization of Meals on Wheels by ACC. “The staff at Area 4 Agency on Aging was already recommending that they change from heating meals themselves and delivering the meals hot, to considering a frozen meal pod like we do in Sacramento County. We had conversations with Seniors First about it and assisted them with their nutritional analysis.

“We were surprised when Seniors First suddenly said they couldn’t do home-delivered meals after Oct. 31.”

Meals on Wheels by ACC takes over the contract on Jan. 27, said program director David Morikawa. Until then, homebound clients in Rocklin, Roseville, Auburn and Colfax will continue to receive their weekly frozen packs of meals directly from Bateman Senior Meals, the senior nutrition catering service that also supplies Meals on Wheels by ACC its meals.

“Our desire is to make it seamless for our home-delivered meal clients in Placer County,” said Yee. “They’ll get the same meals. We hope clients see very little change.”

But Seniors First officials say they’ve heard from some of their former Meals on Wheels clients that they preferred the hot delivered meals.

“Today I talked to one gentleman who’s blind and can’t even heat up the meals,” said Seniors First manager Jamee Horning. “People are suffering because of it.”

The Placer County goal for Meals on Wheels by ACC is to accommodate the 80-person waiting list and expand the program to serve even more fragile seniors, said Morikawa.

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