By Jeannie Howard
Since 1968 Meals on Wheels has been servicing Contra Costa County by providing healthy, well balanced meals delivered to seniors, 60 years and older. What many may not know is that they also oversee six of the 17 Contra Costa Cafes (CC Cafes) throughout the country.
“The cafes allow seniors who are still mobile to receive the same meal as the home-bound but in a nice environment where they can socialize,” described Sharon Fitzgerald, Nutrition Services Division Manager for Meals on Wheels and Senior Outreach Services (MOWSOS). “Often there are also other activities provided to them so many of our seniors come to the cafes early to sit and talk, play bingo or cards. They are not just showing up to have a meal and then leave.”
While MOWSOS provides on average of close to 200 meals a day between their six CC Cafés, Fitzgerald stresses that they have plenty of room to grow. “We want to grow, so we encourage all of our seniors to bring friends with them,” she said.
The meal plan for each month is available at least a week prior and can be found on the organization’s website, MOWSOS.org. “Having the menu available allows our seniors to plan which days they want to come or if they would like to eat one of the alternative meals,” said Fitzgerald.
If someone doesn’t want to eat what is planned for a specific day, each café regularly offers four alternative meal choices: cheese burger, garden burger, and chef or seafood salad.
Enjoying a meal at one of the CC Cafes is as simple as making a reservation, which can be made the business day prior to the meal by calling the café or visiting the website.
“There are no financial requirements. We do ask for a $2 donation to help offset the cost of the meal but it is not mandatory. The only requirement is the individual must be 60 years old or older,” Fitzgerald said. “Setting up a reservation helps the staff at each café plan for how many meals will be needed each day.”
For many seniors the meal they receive through Meals on Wheels may be the only balanced, healthy meal they receive each day, Fitzgerald stressed. “The cafes not only provide that same healthy meal but also a way for seniors to get out of their home to socialize with one another. Staying connected is just as important to health and well-being as nutritious food is.”
This is certainly true for Steve Longenbohn, 67, of Rodeo who has been a regular of the Rodeo CC Café for two years.
“I come to the café for the socialization aspect and have made many new friends through the café,” he said. “In the beginning I had very few friends but now everyone here is my friend and my wife and I encourage others to come also.”
“What I have noticed is, for many of our seniors, developing a routine is really important to them,” revealed Fitzgerald. “They like to know where they are going and what they can count on. The cafes have become a part of their routines and for others a reason to get out of their homes.”
Whether they have family nearby or not, Fitzgerald said that being able to socialize with others your own age is very important to maintaining metal well-being. “Most people want to be around others that have the same frame of reference as them and are familiar with the same things that they are,” she described. “That is what is nice about the cafes; seniors are able to come together to enjoy a nutritious meal, participate in a variety of activities and meet new friends who they can relate to.”
For more information about the CC Cafes visit MOWSOS.org or call (925) 937-8311.