by Dennis Dalman
Those 60 and older in the Sartell area are welcome to pick up free frozen meals at two places in the city – enough meals to last seniors one month.
This is an ongoing program, set for every month.
The meals will be distributed at the following times and places: Celebration Lutheran Church, 1500 Pinecone Road N., from 8-10:30 a.m. Monday, March 22. Sartell Community Center, 850 19th St. W., from 9:30-11 a.m. Wednesday, March 31.
To register for the meals, call coordinator Amanda Clemens at 320-229-4584.
The frozen-meals distribution program is made possible by Catholic Charities. It is partially funded via a contract with the Central Minnesota Council on Aging as part of the National Older Americans Act.
Meals are prepared at Catholic Charities dining sites throughout central Minnesota and then frozen in containers that can be placed in microwaves or ovens. Each meal contains about one-third of a recommended daily allowance of nutrition for seniors. The meals are salt-free.
The virus pandemic has had a profound effect on senior citizens, many of whom are homebound, alone and without their own transportation, according to Ruth Hunstiger, director of community services for Catholic Charities.
In November 2020, the senior dining program was honored with the Circle of Excellence Award from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The award citation noted the dining program offered low-cost or free meals to older adults at 40 sites in a nine-county area, including Stearns and Benton.
By using frozen meals and partnering with food shelves, the senior dining program was able to prepare and serve or deliver 91,000 meals per month in 2020. That was an increase of 26,000 meals per month from 2019.
When the virus crisis struck, congregate dining sites were closed, causing worry and concern among senior citizens who desperately needed food but sometimes had no way to get it.
During the pandemic, many area businesses had extra food due to lack of customers, and some of them donated that food and even helped deliver meals.