About a week before Thanksgiving I went to the Meals for ME dining room in Holden to serve the holiday feast. After all these years, I’m still amazed and delighted at how much fun it is to join those gathered for a special time. Meals for ME is the nutrition program of Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
Aside from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, Meals for ME also serves chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes, green beans and dinner rolls, roast pork with gravy, red potatoes, peas and lemon meringue pie, and of course the Maine standards of boiled dinners and macaroni and cheese.
There are two components to Meals for ME.
First, the community dining rooms such as Holden number about 50 throughout eastern Maine. From one to five days a week, depending on the site, friends and neighbors come together for a delicious meal, a little companionship and a lot of laughter.
Think about this the next time you are making a simple sandwich for lunch. At a Meals for ME dining room you might be served baked ham with mashed sweet potato and strawberry shortcake. You may not be aware of this, but you need not be 60 to attend a dining room.
Here’s the rule: A senior 60 and older makes a donation for the meal of, we hope, $3. But, if a person younger than 60 attends, such as a senior’s daughter or neighbor or friend, the companion pays the full cost of the meal, which is a flat $5. Such a deal.
“Our goal is to get families to come to the meal sites together and dine together if they choose,” said Ron Crone, director of nutrition at EAAA. “Of course we’d like to get our numbers up and we think that allowing family and friends of seniors to come and pay a nominal fee for the meal, which includes beverage and dessert, is a win-win situation. We get more people in the dining room and the seniors get to share meals and the fun of the dining rooms with their families.”
The other component is the home delivery side of the program, which serves seniors who are basically homebound, cannot cook for themselves and have no one to cook for them. Typically these people would have toast or even cookies for lunch, but with Meals for ME they get a nutritious meal and a visit from the friendly volunteer who delivers the meal.
“Human contact is so important and often we don’t understand what it’s like to be home alone all the time,” said Crone. “And it is frustrating sometimes because people who may want or need the program don’t use it because they think it is for low-income only. That is simply not true. We have been fighting that myth for years. We encourage everyone to try Meals for ME and see for themselves. And just $5 for a non-senior, well, that can’t be beat. We serve quickly, but this is not fast food. It’s just priced like it.”
In fact, there are no income guidelines at all for Meals for ME. The only requirement to join a dining room for lunch is that you come hungry.
And if you have a desire to help, that is all the more reason to get involved.
“We are desperate for volunteers,” said Crone. “Some areas are harder hit than others, but we need help in the Holden dining room, and a driver to deliver to Dedham. We have homebound seniors who need a meal, but we have no one to deliver one to them. It’s just sad.”
If you are interested in tasting the culinary delights of Meals for ME, or if you would like to volunteer, call 941-2865 or 800-432-7812.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, e-mail email@example.com or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.