Meal program adapts to cuts

The American Red Cross will consolidate four sites with other sites and close two locations in its local Good Neighbor Nutrition Program due to budget cuts, program officials said.

The program is funded by a grant distributed by the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging. It provides around 1,000 hot meals a day to residents 60 years and older.

"A lot of people are feeling budget cuts right now," said James Williams, public relations manager for the Midway-Kansas Chapter of the Red Cross. "We want something that affects the least amount of people as possible."

Williams said the staff discussed the best option so that no one would go without a meal.

"First and foremost, our primary concern is making sure our clients are getting taken care of," he said. "To be financially responsible, we have already cut a position and a half. We can direct more money towards food."

The Good Neighbor Nutrition Program and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging have approved a plan that involves consolidating some locations and closing two.

"Even if we are asking them to consolidate with another location, their original site is within five minutes of the new one," Williams said.

But some seniors receiving the meals are not planning to relocate.

"I doubt seriously that very many people will want to travel out of the apartment complex," said Marolyn Madden, a resident at Sheridan Village, which will consolidate with the Linwood Senior Center. "Several ladies have walkers."

Madden said the Sisters of St. Joseph, which owns the complex she lives in, started the program at her location a year ago.

Williams said he thinks many of those involved in the program have been understanding, considering the circumstances.

" (The) Good Neighbor Nutrition Program is more than just a meal," he said. "It provides seniors the opportunity to get out of the house, make friends and converse over a hot and healthy meal."

Madden agrees.

"The most important part is that we got to know each other better," she said. "You get through eating, and you sit and visit every day."

Because Madden's apartment complex includes kitchens in each room, she said they have considered cooking their own lunches and gathering at different apartments daily to eat and converse.

Madden said it has been announced that the last meal at Sheridan Village will be on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.