Future plans for pandemic meals program

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CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — The initial federal funding under the CARES Act to provide home cooked meals to seniors is about to end; however, it is highly probable the program will continue.

Those who coordinate the deliver of the meals in our area say half a million dollars funded the special CARES Act, Small Business Meal Initiative.

Aaron Bradley and Denise West say the program provided food to hundreds of seniors in 16 East Tennessee counties.

They’re adults over 60 who normally would not qualify for a senior feeding program, but were eligible under the CARES Act and will continue to be.

“At last count, we were at 44,000 meals for this funding. So, hundreds of people received the assistance.”

Denise West, Area Agency on Aging

Wanting to keep small businesses afloat and knowing that more seniors will need food because of shelter at home directives, the federal CARES Act provided financial aid to qualified restaurants who applied for a special nutrition grant.

“It kind of put them back in business. Most of them were doing 40 to 50 meals when they prepared meals. That’s good for a small rural restaurant. They were doing more than that per week for folks who needed a meal.”

Aaron Bradley Director Area Agency on Aging

Because local restaurants prepare different dishes everyday, a wider variety of meals were added to the normal take-home menu for seniors.

“Businesses need cash flow and need business for cash flow. In this case it really helped the businesses to stay open and stay in business.”

Aaron Bradley

It’s the person-to-person contact that provided the true pay off for the CARES Meals Initiative. Food that was hand-delivered to older people who normally would not qualify for senior home meals.

The help for seniors will continue even though the first phase of the special CARES Act funding has expired.

“We have a little gap now in funding. However, we have applied for additional funding under the CARES Act. We believe that funding will come online August 1. So, in a few counties there may be a little gap, but we should be able to pick back up August 1.”

Aaron Bradley

With the new funding, the majority of seniors will likely continue to receive their meals, perhaps through September of next year.

The restaurant demonstration plan was not only successful for those small businesses, but it provided meals to more than 400 seniors helping to stretch their tight budgets.

The home delivery service also gave seniors, who were alone, a chance to talk with someone.

The visits are like wellness checks.

Approval to continue the special Cares Act initiative through next year is expected in a few days.

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