CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people in East Tennessee are having some home-cooked meal provided by selected area restaurants.
The meals are being funded by the CARES Act that was passed earlier this year. The Area Agency on Aging is supervising the effort to feed those in need.
The staff at a downtown café spent several hours on Saturday preparing several hundred home-cooked meals. Money from the federal CARES Act is earmarked to assist qualified restaurants with 50 employees or less.
For the second time since June, restaurant co-owner Jimmy Taylor and his staff prepared more than 300 home cooked meals last Saturday for a special group of seniors in Anderson County.
Jimmy and his co-owner Leigh Ann Young operate the Apple Blossom Café and Catering in downtown Clinton which is at 50% capacity. They were busy in the kitchen last Saturday morning getting these special meals ready before opening for regular customers.
“We will prepare seven meals for 45 people which will totals 315 meals,” Young said. “That’s for one week.”
Wanting to keep small businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and knowing that more seniors will need food during the crisis — the federal CARES Act provided financial aid to qualified restaurants that applied for a special nutrition grant.
“We’ve contracted with Apple Blossom again to provide home delivered meals to clients who normally would not qualify,” Denise West, CARES Act program manager, said. “We ask for a meat, two vegetables, bread. Quite often they send a lot more than that, like dessert. All kinds of special things. They are serving a population who normally would not qualify for home delivered meals.”
“It has really been a godsend, not only are we helping our seniors in this community, but it is sustaining our business as well,” Young said.
Restaurants are used to preparing different dishes daily. As a result, the CARES Act money is being spent to not only to assist small businesses, but also to provide a wider variety of meals to the menu for delivery to seniors.
“It just brightens my heart, warms my heart to go out here to feed the seniors that are unable to go and get meals,” Taylor said.
We were in Campbell County, six months ago, when Carla Bolton bagged up meals prepared under special CARES Act funding. Bolton owns and operates The Local, a popular café in LaFollette. It’s one of four restaurants in our area that has again contracted with the East Tennessee Area Agency on Aging to feed seniors during the pandemic.
“We still do our traditional home delivered meal program through (East Tennessee Human Resource Agency) and all of our nutrition partners,” Denise West said. “This is additional money that can serve an additional population, but all 60 and over.”
The CARES Act contract with small businesses also requires the restaurant provider to deliver the food.
The bags of home cooked meals are carried to seniors like Nannie Nantz, a widow who lives alone on a fixed income and cares for her grandson.
“A lot of old people would starve to death without someone helping them because their families work all the time and they don’t have no time for them. God’s not for that, He is to help others,” Nantz said.
“You feel good at the end of the day when you know you have made a difference in someone’s life and food is a very basic need,” West said.
The meals prepared at Apple Blossom in Clinton were bagged up and delivered on Sunday, Dec. 6, taking two hours to drop them off to a large group of thankful seniors in Anderson County.
“It just, it really just blesses my heart, and I thank God every day for that,” Taylor said.
“Apple Blossom is a great partner. We have partnered with them twice, and we hope to be able to work with them more in the future,” West said.
The special CARES Act funding which pays for restaurants for preparing and delivering the home-cooked meals to vulnerable seniors is ending.
But since 150 people in five East Tennessee counties are receiving these meals, the Area Agency on Aging says it is working on finding other funding, so that no one goes hungry in 2021.
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