It is somewhat of a paradox – affordable, tasty, nutritious meals are offered for local senior citizens in Escalon – but not too many people take advantage of the opportunity.
“I don’t know, we have tried to get people to come and I really don’t understand it,” Senior Meals program coordinator Sandy Rigg said.
She is hoping to not only get more participation in the program by local seniors, but she also needs a replacement, as she is stepping down from the volunteer post after several years.
“We seem to have people that can volunteer an hour or so,” she said, adding that no one right now is stepping up to take on the greater responsibility of running the program.
But, she said, it isn’t difficult and it is rewarding. She is just ready to turn it over to someone else and enjoy some travel and leisure time in retirement with her husband.
Escalon’s senior meals are served Tuesdays and Thursdays, about 11:15 a.m., at the Escalon Community Center, in a special ‘senior’ room that also allows for guest lecturers, music, occasional Bingo games and a small lending library. This is all in addition to the hot meals, which are available for a donation of any size to those 55 and older.
“I have talked to the county and they are supposed to look for somebody,” Rigg said of having help finding a replacement. “This (Escalon) city council is aware of it, they want to find somebody too; I don’t think they want the program to go by the wayside, they are committed to it.”
Along with overseeing the meals at the site, the coordinator on Tuesdays has to be there to get the Meals on Wheels deliveries organized and sent out.
“Tuesdays we have five meals delivered (to each recipient) through meals on wheels, we currently are at nine deliveries and it pretty much stays at around nine or 10,” Rigg said of taking meals to those who can’t get to the meal site itself.
Volunteer drivers take five prepared meals to each Meals on Wheels recipient, for use during the week. Rigg said they are always looking for more volunteer drivers, and a couple of current drivers will be stepping down soon, so she is looking to replace them as well.
Rigg said she doesn’t want to see the program end, as it helps fill nutritional needs and provides some social interaction for seniors, whether they go to the meal site or visit with their home delivery driver.
“You just need to be there,” Rigg said of the biggest responsibility in running the program. “You get there at 9 a.m. (Tuesdays and Thursdays) so you can receive the food when it comes, get it put in the oven and heat it so it will be ready.
“We serve about 11:15 a.m., the people that come to exercise, they exercise until 11 a.m. and then they are ready to eat soon after that.”
The Community Center hosts a Tuesday-Thursday ‘Senior Gentle Exercise Class’ that runs from 10 a.m. to 11 .am., and that allows for them to stay and eat both days. Rigg said the food is prepared at a central site and then brought to satellite locations like Escalon for local seniors.
“It’s a donation, actually,” Rigg explained of the meal cost. “Most people put in $2 but it’s a donation, they can’t require a set amount.”
There is a sign-up sheet at the Community Center so program officials know how many meals to send out on any given day. Rigg said they like participants to come both Tuesdays and Thursdays and, when possible, ask them to sign up for both days.
“The people that eat the food really like it a lot,” Rigg added.
The meals are prepared by Bates Meals out of Sacramento and are transported here from a central location in Stockton.
“One of the favorites is Chicken Caesar salad, plus they always get a fruit and of course they always get milk,” Rigg said. “Another one they really enjoy is a teriyaki meatball with rice, there is always a mixed vegetable with that.”
The meals also typically include some type of bread, fruits, vegetables and the milk to help provide a nutritious lunch.
Rigg said other popular menu items are the polish sausages, pork tenderloin with pineapple sauce and shepherd’s pie.
Volunteers are always needed and the coordinator would also have to have their food safety certification, which can be obtained by taking a test.
Right now, the local senior meal site is qualified to serve 14 people at any given time, but could increase that rating if they were able to get more people to attend.
“I have been doing this almost eight years,” Rigg said of being involved in the program. “I actually started out as a volunteer, I probably didn’t take it over until two years after that.”
But with six years in the volunteer position behind her, Rigg is hoping to hand it off to someone that will keep the program going and, hopefully, expand it.
Rigg said her last week as coordinator will be June 15 through 19 and anyone interested in learning more about the opportunity to serve can contact her at 838-2770 or Escalon City Hall at 691-7400.