Home delivered meal plans benefiting seniors through next year

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Since the pandemic arrived in our region, federal money has helped fund additional services to provide home-delivered meals to seniors in East Tennessee.

That funding has now been extended through next year.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare explains how this money is used and who is eligible for the meals.

Funding to provide home delivered meals is made available through the CARES Act.

The first phase ends soon, but the demand remains high. After all, the novel coronavirus is still with us. That’s why phase 2 of the CARES Act was approved a few days ago.

It means agencies like Knoxville-Knox County’s CAC, Blount County Community Action Agency, the Mid-East Community Action Agency, the Douglass-Cherokee Economic Authority, and ETHRA will continue to provide food to people over 60 who can’t go out shopping.

A vital service is being provided in Seymour. We reported how staff members from Douglas-Cherokee and volunteers delivered meals in April — a week’s supply to seniors who ordinarily don’t receive food at their door.

This home delivery system was new two months ago, made possible with nutrition grants through Phase 1 of the federal CARES Act.

“We have volunteers from Head Start who have come to help us. We have extra funding from the state so we are giving they’re getting their meals along with extra groceries,” Megan Crosby, with Douglas-Cherokee, said.

In Morristown, meals for seniors are prepared in the kitchen at the Douglas-Cherokee headquarters.

With senior centers closed like this one in Madisonville because those over 60 are the most vulnerable to the virus, no sit-down or congregate meals have been allowed since mid-March.

Some older people are able to drive to various locations to pick up their meals — but many can’t do that.

What has happened over the last three-plus months, the demand for home-delivered meals has soared. So Phase 2 of the CARES Act will soon be in place.

More than $1 million will be funneled into local agencies to provide meals for those seniors who either feel safer-at-home or simply can’t get out to shop.

“One point three million dollars for home-delivered meals for this region. We will put those dollars in place by August First. They should come out to contract to us by July the first. We are not going to have any gaps. We have enough funding to keep everything going June and July, so we shouldn’t have any problems,” Aaron Bradley, Area Agency on Aging, EHTRA, said.

In May, we first reported how local restaurants — like Hillbilly’s Cabin in Morristown — was asked to prepare extra meals for seniors through the CARES Act.

In Clinton, Apple Blossom Cafe also received a nutrition grant through the act. Here, home cooked meals are made and delivered to seniors throughout Anderson County.

“It’s just nice to be able to help them and see the appreciation,” Leigh Ann Young, restaurant owner, said.

At The Local Cafe in LaFollette, we watched Carla Bolton bag meals for seniors at her restaurant yesterday. Managers of at these locally-owned cafes help bridge the expanding demand for home-delivered meals to elderly people who request assistance.

“The restaurants we have 10 in the region that are partnering with our provider networks. They’re filling gaps and delivering meals on a weekly basis just like our regular providers are,” Aaron Bradley said.

Because local agencies have a connection to their community and to the people they serve, they’re providing a vital lifeline to those most-at-risk across East Tennessee — a service that has now been extended through part of next year.

The demand for home-delivered meals since mid-March has nearly doubled from just over 2,000 to nearly 4,000 people.

The $1.3 million allocated specifically for nutrition services will be spread to five different agencies throughout East Tennessee.

Again, these meals go to people over 60 who either cannot get out and shop, or are afraid to go out and shop in order to stay safe at home.

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