BLOOMINGTON — Peace Meal Senior Nutrition Program will stop serving meals to older adults on Fridays — from June 10 through September — as the agency addresses increased costs and decreased funding.
However, Peace Meal is trying to minimize the impact by offering two meals to home-delivery clients on Thursdays — one to be saved for Fridays. While meals will not be served on Fridays at congregate meal sites — including Miller Park Pavilion, Normal Township Senior Center and Woodhill Towers — seniors can order an extra meal to take home on other days.
“It’s disappointing that, after 30 years, this is happening,” said Barb Seagren, Peace Meal assistant director for McLean, DeWitt, Piatt and Livingston counties. Ford and Iroquois also are among 14 counties affected.
“Our goal is to do this (reduction), with a minimal disruption to seniors, so that we can be strong in the future,” Seagren said Wednesday.
Peace Meal’s leadership decided to cut back from a five-day to a four-day operation to balance its budget by the end of its fiscal year, Sept. 30, said Seagren and Mike O’Donnell, executive director of the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. The area agency is Peace Meal’s largest funding source, granting state and federal money, O’Donnell said.
Food and fuel prices have increased as support from individuals, organizations, townships and other local governments have declined in the 14 counties, Seagren said. Meanwhile, seniors are struggling to maintain their average contribution of $2 per meal as the state considers reducing its support for home-delivered meals for the next fiscal year and as the federal government makes small reductions for the current fiscal year, Seagren and O’Donnell said.
Peace Meal has 59 congregate dining locations, including 10 in McLean County, where 3,923 people 60 and older eat noon meals, O’Donnell said. Home-delivered meals are provided to 2,196 people age 60 and older who qualify for meal assistance.
All full- and part-time employees — kitchen and office staff, site supervisors and drivers — will experience a reduction in hours, she said.
“I’m not happy about it,” Seagren said, fighting back tears. “Already, our people (employees and volunteers) are thinking creatively about how they can do the best job they can for the seniors.”