Over the past two weeks, the Orange County Office for the Aging (OFA) has presented a very important project to their legislative oversight committees as they seek approval to bring it before the full legislature for a vote at their July meeting. The Office for the Aging is requesting approval for funding of a centralized kitchen so that they may improve and enhance the senior dining program which includes home delivered meals and congregant dining (group dining at selected locations around the County).
Orange County OFA has been managing the senior dining program since 1975 at which time they produced about 85,000 meals a year. Last year, OFA produced more than 225,000 meals for home delivery and congregant dining. Even with that staggering figure, there continues to be a waiting list of homebound seniors looking to participate in the program. For some time, there have been two stumbling blocks that have prevented the dining program from expanding to the point where it can assist all seniors who need it. They are: a shortage of volunteers and insufficient kitchen capacity.
Late last year, we were presented with an opportunity that will help us address the challenge of kitchen capacity. When Orange-Ulster BOCES took over the Arden Hill Hospital campus in Goshen they found themselves with a large, commercial-sized kitchen on their hands, far larger than they would need for their culinary programs, leaving them to wonder what they would do with the excess kitchen capacity. Thanks to a strong relationship between Orange County Government and BOCES an opportunity to partner was embraced and discussions about developing a centralized kitchen for OFA’s senior dining program began. A project that had been batted around for more than 12 years was starting to take shape.
A centralized OFA kitchen at BOCES’ Arden Hill campus will offer many benefits to both the County and BOCES. It will allow OFA to address the growing need for home delivered and congregant meals - increased capacity will make it possible for more meals to be prepared and more residents accommodated. It will be more cost effective and efficient. The program will be able to purchase in volume and tap into goods from local farms. Students and adults will be able to work together which will encourage inter-generational understanding. And, there will be room to accommodate future growth.
Now, we must address the other challenge facing our senior dining program – the ever-increasing call for delivery volunteers. We are fortunate to have some very dedicated volunteers who generously donate their time to ensure that homebound residents receive a hot, nutritionally balanced meal each day.
I was recently reminded by Legislator Leigh Benton that retired County Legislator Tony Marino is an active meal delivery volunteer in the Town of Newburgh. The daily visits from volunteers like Tony are sometimes the only interaction that these residents have with another person – and there have been cases when that daily visit has made a life or death difference for the homebound resident. OFA Director Ann Marie Maglione and I greatly appreciate the support from volunteers like Tony and the hundreds of others who make this program possible. If you are interested in learning more about the home delivered meal program or becoming a volunteer, contact OFA at 615-3710.
The request for funding the centralized kitchen will go before the full legislature for approval soon. I urge you to reach out to your legislature and encourage him or her to vote in favor of this request.
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.