“I like a hot meal, but nowadays I couldn’t pay the full price for one,” says Alan White. The 85-year-old is one of the 30 or so seniors who come every weekday to Steel Plaza Senior Apartments near downtown for a subsidized lunch. “I guess my favorite meal is old fashioned roast beef… but I’m really not fussy. If you put it in front of me, it disappears. But this is my main meal here.”
An estimated one million older adults in Los Angeles can’t afford to eat regular – let alone, healthy – meals. Low-income seniors are especially vulnerable as they are often faced with having to decide between paying rent, buying food or medicine, or other expenses. About 600 of these elders rely on the free daily hot lunches provided by St. Barnabas Senior Services’ nutrition program at one of their 14 congregate meal sites around the city, including Steel Plaza.
The meals are prepared from scratch every day. A small army of managers, cooks, kitchen helpers, and truck drivers work to get them onto tables across LA. St. Barnabas also contracts with Morrison Health Care, which houses a kitchen inside a nondescript building in an industrial neighborhood in Northridge. There, cooks start prepping at 3:30 am each day, then they’re delivered by a fleet of 16 trucks to senior centers, and churches. An additional 600 meals are delivered to homebound seniors.
Everyone involved in the process is proud of the work they do.
“I care about this program because of the seniors. My mother is a senior. I love doing this,” says Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Morrison Health Care, Nader Poursadeghi. “And you know, some of the seniors, this is the only meal they have.”