Ocean County To Provide Nearly 300,000 Meals To Seniors

County employees prepare meals for delivery and for those who came out to the Southern Service Center. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

OCEAN COUNTY – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is continuing its pledge to its homebound and vulnerable seniors to provide a nutritious meal daily as part of its extensive senior nutrition program. The Board of Freeholders recently awarded seven contracts to Community Services Inc., the major meal provider in Ocean County.

“In the New Year, Ocean County will provide almost 300,000 meals to seniors,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as chairman of Senior Services. “Close to 1,100 meals are currently prepared daily and distributed to homebound seniors as well as the eight congregate meal sites located throughout our County.”

The cost of the 2018 congregate meal contract is $782,173, and for home delivered, weekend, and holiday meals it is $1,800,132. Over 295,000 total meals are projected for delivery in 2018.

As of the end of November, there were a total of 258,246 meals prepared thus far for 2017. Home delivered meals accounted for 227,551 meals delivered to the homebound and 30,695 to congregate sites.

“We operate one of the largest senior nutrition programs in the state and with the support of the Board of Freeholders we have awarded seven contracts to continue this program into 2018,” Vicari said. “There is no wait list in Ocean County for this program. No senior in Ocean County goes hungry.”

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While the meals are currently prepared at the Community Services Inc. kitchen in Lakewood, this will change in the New Year once extensive renovations to the Ocean County Southern Service Center on Route 9 in Manahawkin are completed.

The project is scheduled to go out to bid on Jan. 3. The County anticipates receiving bids at the end of January and work is expected to begin in the spring. The work will include reconfiguring the inside of the building to provide 2,000 square feet of additional service area for the county’s senior nutrition program allowing for expanded meal preparation.

The upgraded facility will include a renovated senior nutrition site that will hold over 200 people, better storage facilities, expanded administrative space for client services, and more refrigeration. The project also includes lowering the ceiling of the facility and the installation of sprinklers – a major safety upgrade. The lowered ceiling will make acoustics better for older adults and at the same time creates storage space to accommodate shelf stable meals and paper goods.

“At the same time, this project will create a more efficient, centralized operation, with better opportunities for cost control and decreased waste, and create one production location to enhance communication for both staff and consumers,” said Jackie Rohan, Director of Senior Services.

Community Services Inc., during renovations, will continue to produce the meals for seniors at the Ocean County Northern Resource Center in Lakewood. A smaller congregate site will continue to be operated at the Southern Service Center during the work.

“The senior nutrition program serves as a lifeline for many of our elderly residents living alone. It helps them maintain their independence and the volunteers and drivers help provide a daily wellness check for many seniors that can no longer get around on their own,” Vicari said.

Vicari noted that socialization, recreation, educational programs and health screenings will be offered at the nutrition site.