CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — When the pandemic hit East Tennessee in March, feeding the most vulnerable adults became a priority for state agencies and within weeks the demand for meals soared.
That’s when Apple Blossom Cafe stepped up to help seniors across Clinton. The cafe, a fixture for four decades in the community for decades expanded its reach of providing tasty meals to dozens of customers, many of whom are seniors who are being urged to avoid getting out when unnecessary amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When the stay-at-home guidelines were made in March, the federal government approved special funding to provide extra meals to meet the demand.
Cafe operator Leigh Ann Young prepare more than 300 meals for seniors throughout Anderson County for delivery on Sunday.
When the pandemic was declared, Apple Blossom’s dining area was closed. It has since reopened but with limited capacity.
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.
“We had a great opportunity to help (East Tennessee Human Resource Agency) and our community,” Young said. “We are honored and privileged to have had that opportunity to serve our community.”
“Apple Blossom was one of those restaurants that stepped up and said, ‘We want to help,’ ” ETHRA Director Aaron Bradley said. “They were willing to work with us to get meals out to seniors here in Anderson County. Because our system was stretched, we were meeting the need but we wanted added capacity.”
Since local restaurants were used to preparing different dishes every day, a wider variety of meals was added to the menu for seniors.
“We do a chicken casserole, barbecue pork chops,” Young said. “We have a breakfast platter, a cold plate.”
Notes of appreciation have been sent to the cafe thanking them for the selection of food.
“What we are hearing from a lot of folks is they love the choice that is involved,” Bradley said. “They may not want meatloaf today, they may want meatloaf on Friday. So it has provided them with some flexibility in what they have each day.”
Leigh Ann says she and her staff will start packing the refrigerator Saturday with 315 meals.
“It will be full of brown bags, just about every area,” Young said. “Then we box them up and go deliver.”
The menu for seniors they’ll visit on Sunday is already prepared.
Young and two others will spend about two hours on Sunday delivering the meals to 45 people in Anderson County. Apple Blossom Cafe is among three other restaurants in differnt counties preparing and deliver meals. Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties have also established a partnership with restaurants to deliver meals to seniors who normally do not meet state requirements.
“It’s just nice to be able to help them,” Young said.
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