COA employees get up close and personal with comfort meal program

Monday, November 2, 2020

by Lisa Kruse, Communications Specialist

Cambridge Arms meal deliveriesWe didn’t know what to expect, so we just put on our masks and walked in. 

Cambridge Arms Senior Apartments, in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood, was due to receive a delivery of meals as part of Council on Aging’s (COA) comfort meal program. COA has been providing comfort meals to seniors in low-income apartment buildings since April – nearly 34,000 such meals have been delivered, in fact. But this time, instead of leaving the meals with the building’s manager for distribution, Kim Alexander, Administrative Assistant for Provider Services, and I were two of four people allowed to personally deliver the meals to residents in the building. On the menu: a boxed meal of chicken Alfredo, a salad and breadstick from LaRosa’s Pizzeria.

Some residents had noticed the yellow signs posted in the building’s elevators announcing the individual meal deliveries at lunchtime that day and were expecting the treat. Other residents were completely surprised. 

Either way, the residents were beyond grateful to receive the treat of food “from the outside.”

“They really enjoy the meals,” remarked Sharon Halle, building director at Cambridge Arms. “Some people eat the meal for lunch; some wait until dinner. They all said they appreciate the meals. You know, it’s something different for them to eat. They especially like the hand-delivery.”

For seven months, since before March when the COVID-19 pandemic began, many residents had not been out of the apartment building. Older adults are more susceptible to the devastating health effects of the Coronavirus and, for their own protection, residents of Cambridge Arms were urged to remain inside and to not go out in public. For many, that meant isolation and loneliness.

We donned our masks and gloves and trekked up and down the hallways pushing a grocery cart filled to the brim with boxed meals. I was slated to deliver meals with Sharon while Kim worked with another volunteer, Gail.

When we each knocked on apartment doors, they were opened with sounds of thankfulness from the residents. Everyone was delighted to be included. “Oh, thank you!” a female resident exclaimed. “Thank you for thinking of me.”

Both Kim and I were happy to see and hear first-hand the appreciative smiles and grateful comments. Kim sums up my sentiments perfectly when she says, “The only part of the [comfort meal program] I’ve ever experienced was talking to the building managers. So getting to actually deliver the meals made it all come full circle for me. I’m happy that we have this program for them, and I could actually see how those meals benefit them and the difference it made for them that day.”

The comfort meal deliveries were not only a chance for the residents to eat good food, many residents took the opportunity to have a good ole’ chit chat with us and their neighbors. Upon receiving her meal, one resident was very eager to talk about the books she was reading. “I like books by Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts the best,” she said with a smile.

As the meals were distributed, it was heart-warming to see residents greeting each other in the hallways and chatting about their days. Because of the isolation created by this COVID-19 pandemic, the more often older adults can interact with others, the better.

When the grocery cart was empty and all the meals were delivered, Kim and I were happy knowing we had possibly brightened their day. It certainly brightened ours.