HYATTSVILLE – Hot lunches may be on the way for seniors in Hyattsville if the city council decides to move forward in partnership with the county’s senior nutrition program. The idea to partner with the Prince George’s County Senior Nutrition Program was raised during the Jan. 9 Hyattsville City Council meeting as Councilman Joseph Solomon […]
HYATTSVILLE – Hot lunches may be on the way for seniors in Hyattsville if the city council decides to move forward in partnership with the county’s senior nutrition program.
The idea to partner with the Prince George’s County Senior Nutrition Program was raised during the Jan. 9 Hyattsville City Council meeting as Councilman Joseph Solomon presented the council with various options to move forward.
“There are number of opportunities provided through this partnership,” Solomon said. “Opportunities to serve our seniors warm meals in different sorts of settings or cold meals at home.”
The county program is offered through the family services section of the county department of Health and Human Services. The program is run out of various community and senior centers across the county, including the Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center in Brentwood and the Langley Park Senior Activity Center, which are the closest to Hyattsville residents.
The nutrition program is broken down into two different services that both provide meals to seniors. One, the home delivery service, brings meals to seniors participating in the program and the other, the congregate meal program, hosts food hubs at local senior centers where residents can pick up meals and interact. The program also offers transportation to the congregate meals.
Currently, to qualify, a resident of the county must be at least 60 years old or be married to a senior.
“Obviously with this partnership there would be costs. Either to develop a senior nutrition site, which would be the congregate site for seniors, or costs to provide services to deliver meals to seniors’ homes,” Solomon said.
Solomon brought the idea before the council as a discussion without giving an inclination of the option he leaned toward. He said he did this to gauge whether or not the rest of the council wanted to move forward with the idea at all, but some at the dais said they would have preferred to see an actual proposal rather than an idea.
Councilmen Patrick Paschall and Kevin Ward both expressed this sentiment when looking at the vast list of options before them.
As it stands, the city could take a number of routes to partner with the county on senior meals. The city could open its own nutrition center, renovate a kitchen within a current building, provide access to an existing site through the call-a-bus service, or bring meals to seniors in the city from an existing site.
“Right now what we have is a whole bunch of food,” Ward said in analogy. “It’s a buffet and I would much rather know like, give me a sample meal of what you think should be on my plate and then I could say ‘you know what, I don’t like lima beans. Let’s move the lima beans off,’ or ‘I think that steak is way too much.’”
Jake Rollow, the city’s spokesperson and community services director, said he had reached out to the county and they “expressed interest in any variation of the program the city” sees fit.
On top of choices for involvement in the program, the scope of the program in the city is uncertain. There is also the matter of how many meals the city wants to offer and how frequently to do so.Solomon said he was unsure of the direct need in the city, but said there are some residents of Hyattsville who travel to the two nearest locations for meals.
Tracey Nicholson, the city administrator, said the city has not accessed the need as of yet and Councilman Bart Lawrence said that is a key ingredient he would need before moving forward.
“If the need is there, and it’s not cost prohibitive than I think it sounds great,” he said. “But at this point I’m not even really willing to engage in theoretical programs without really knowing whether we have more than six people (interested).”
The cost of hosting a lunch site could cost $50,000 just to fully renovate a kitchen up to program standards. Providing only lunch for five days per week in a year would cost approximately $75,000 annually, according to council documents. One day each week is estimated at $15,000 annually. Two days per month totals $7,200 annually.
That was another point Paschall took issue with.
“I love the idea of providing hot lunches to our seniors. What I don’t love is that what I’m seeing here – that unless we provide a cold lunch only – the cost are astronomical, and even with a cold lunch only, is quite expensive,” he said.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth also raised reservations about the city taking on the costs of a service already provided by the county.
Despite some councilmembers taking issue with the large variety of options, most agreed the program was worth looking into.
Councilwoman Shani Warner said she was “delighted” with the idea, but said she would like to start it on a small scale – an idea that was shared among many in the council.
“I think that this will be of benefit particularly toward our low income seniors,” she said. “It’s hard to know how to weigh this compared to other budget items without seeing all the other things we have going on. But as an abstract recommendation, I’d love to see some sort program for about $20,000 and what that would give us.”
Warner said the city could also partner with local churches to save some money and Paschall suggested the city provide a driver to deliver meals to Hyattsville residents from other locations.
Solomon agreed to bring the item back for further discussion at a later time with a scaled down scope and his personal ideas.