Tracking Coronavirus: Douglas-Cherokee adjusts its mobile meals program to meet changing needs

Coronavirus

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Receiving a daily meal from a government-sponsored program is essential for thousands of seniors in East Tennessee.

The Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority during this pandemic provides a lifeline to hundreds of seniors and disabled people. Douglas-Cherokee’s Nutrition Program is critical to seniors and the disabled.

The routine is changing for those who depend on the food and for those who prepare and deliver it.

Hundreds of meals are prepared daily by the Douglas-Cherokee nutrition staff. The dinners prepared at this kitchen Wednesday in Morristown will go to shut-ins and group dining halls.

A few of them remain open in Hamblen County, but not for long.

“Some of them are as of right now. By the end of the week they’ll be closed, and we’ll be doing home delivery. For those we can’t do home delivery for, we’re going to go to the parking lot of that place and they can pick up the five meals.”

Kate Luker – Senior Nutrition Director

This is one of several kitchen preparation sites within Douglas-Cherokee’s large six-county reach in East Tennessee.

With the COVID-19 epidemic now part of our lives, each day is a new challenge for these nutrition workers.

“We’re going down to four or five meals. We’ll deliver them and they will come individually instead of as a group and pick up their meals. They’re coming individually and getting four or five meals.”

Megan Crosby

“We’ve gone from going to their homes and setting them up. Now we are just knocking on the doors, they’re getting the meals. A few have asked to set it on the porch and knock so they know it is there.”

Tonya Long

Today’s route included College Park Apartments, a congregate eating site.

The delivery of half a dozen hot meals for residents was right on time. For Tosha Anderson and other nutrition workers, this is what it’s about.

“Everybody will get fed. They may have a hot meal and a cold meal, but they’ll have something.”

Kate Luker

Being able to take that meal back to their apartment is reassuring for everyone here.

“That’s our whole goal here to make sure nobody goes hungry.”

Kate Luker

Some of the seniors and disabled people within Douglas Cherokee’s six-county network have no access to computers, but they do have phones.

So, nutrition workers and volunteers who deliver food are often the main sources of information to more than 400 people.

They certainly fill a critical need as we all go through this difficult time.

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