COA seeks financial support for program that feeds seniors and supports local restaurants

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

$25,000 Humana grant kick-starts comfort meal contribution drive

Council on Aging (COA) is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from Humana as part of its Bold Goal population health strategy to improve the health of the communities it serves. The grant will help COA sustain its award-winning COVID-19 comfort meal program, which has provided nearly 46,000 restaurant meals to low-income older adults in COA’s service area. Humana’s contribution coincides with an effort by COA to secure funding from individuals and the business community to sustain the program as the coronavirus pandemic reaches critical levels in Ohio.

“We are grateful to Humana and we hope other businesses and individuals in our community come forward so we may continue to provide these important meals,” said Council on Aging CEO Suzanne Burke. “The pandemic is not going away any time soon and while seniors continue to stay home for their safety, they are feeling isolated and alone. These meals are a connection to the outside world and a reminder that they’ve not been forgotten.”

COA began the comfort meal program in April after receiving CARES Act funds to expand meal service to vulnerable seniors during the pandemic. The program is a community partnership that includes nine restaurants – four of them minority-owned – and COA’s provider network. Meals are prepared by participating restaurants, picked up by COA service providers and delivered to seniors across COA’s service area, with a special focus on residents of low-income senior apartment buildings. The program’s goal is simple: to bring comfort through food to seniors who are feeling isolated, alone and forgotten during the pandemic.

With CARES Act funding running out and as cases of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to rise in Ohio – especially among those age 60 and older – COA is seeking support from businesses and individuals to continue this important program into 2021. 

For example, $5,000 will provide 700 meals. For an apartment building with 60 senior residents, that will provide one comfort meal per month for every resident for an entire year. COA has delivered comfort meals to 78 apartment buildings since the start of the program. In rural parts of COA’s service area, some home-delivered meals recipients in single-family homes also receive comfort meals.

COA has received thank you cards and phone calls from residents and staff at senior apartment buildings where meals have been delivered. Heather Henry, a local apartment building manager, said, “The residents are extremely thankful. They have been cooped up – our common areas are closed. They’re just so appreciative – mainly that they haven’t been forgotten.”

“Helping us sustain the comfort meals program is a win-win for any business. The program not only brings comfort to seniors, but it gives a boost to our local economy by supporting local restaurants and their employees that have been impacted by the pandemic,” Burke said.

According to comfort meals restaurant partner and Taste of Belgium owner Jean-François Flechet, participating in COA’s comfort meal program is “an opportunity for us to bring some people back to work and to keep the lights on at our commissary. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to give back and to be a part of something good that’s happening in our community.”

Taste of Belgium continues to provide meals for COA’s comfort meal program and is also donating 10 percent of sales from certain menu items through the end of the year to help COA sustain the program.

 For more information about the program, including how to make a contribution, visit www.help4seniors.org/comfortmeals.