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Hot Meals Program Now Available for Local Seniors, Plans for Youth Services in Future

Neighbors Feeding Neighbors is a collaboration of the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, Enumclaw Senior Center, Enumclaw Youth and Family Services, Enumclaw School District and dedicated volunteers.

If you are a homebound senior or are aware of a local senior who you think could use a hot meal delivered to their home, a new project called Neighbors Feeding Neighbors can make it happen.

But wait: a hot meal delivery program in Enumclaw is not new. The Enumclaw Senior Activity Center has been bringing a hot meal to homebound seniors since 1974. While the Senior Center provides a vital daily lunch program on site, it has always been of critical importance for the Senior Center to also care for older adults who can not get out of their homes or who have difficulty preparing their own healthy food to meet their nutritional needs.

The 'new' element starting in 2013 is that the program will not longer receive funding from King County -- that's where Neighbors Feeding Neighbors (NFN) steps in. NFN is a collaboration of the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation (ERHF), Enumclaw Senior Center, Enumclaw Youth and Family Services, Enumclaw School District and dedicated volunteers who are committed to serving the community’s seniors with hot, nutritious meals and a friendly face and “hello” to let them know that this community cares about them.

When news of the threatened funding was first made public this past February, more than 65 community members turned out for the initial meeting to look at ways to continue the hot meal service, many volunteering that night. The NFN task force is run by an 11-member committee who researched Key Peninsula’s The Mustard Project, Yakima’s People for People Mobile Senior Café, and Portland’s Loaves and Fishes.

Beginning in 2013, this program must be self-supporting with donations and grants. Each meal costs $5.00 which NFN leaders are asking the senior, or their family to pay. If they can’t pay the entire cost, or any of the cost, community members have donated funds to support this program. No senior will ever be turned away because of inability to pay.

Big Deal on Hot Meal?

NFN’s focus is to continue the current level of hot, home-delivered meal service and to reach those seniors who may not have qualified through the more stringent regulations.

Although programs exist that deliver frozen meals to seniors, not every senior is able to recognize when they are hungry and physically retrieve the meal from the freezer and reheat it, Enumclaw Senior Center Manager Jobyna Nickum said. “The home delivery program is more than food, it is a demonstration in care and compassion that organizers hope to continue through a local food program,” she said. Nickum notes the elderly community in Enumclaw alone is about 14.9 percent. “The value of having a familiar face knock on the door with a hot nutritious meal is priceless.”

Next year, credentialed volunteers have stepped forward to prepare and deliver meals. The City of Enumclaw has allowed the program space and storage in the Senior Center kitchen. Current donations have been received from The Senior Advisory Board, the Muckleshoot Charity Fund, the Enumclaw Rotary Club, Allegro Women’s Ensemble holiday concert, and a number of private citizens have donated money to keep it running into the early months of 2013. Meal costs are approximately $5 and will be delivered hot and ready to eat on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each meal will provide an entrée, vegetable, starch, dairy and dessert. The meals will be heart and diabetic friendly.

For more information or if you would like to sign up yourself or a senior, please contact the Enumclaw Senior Center at 360-825-4741. A Neighbors Feeding Neighbors – Senior Meals Assessor will go out to visit with the senior to see if they are a good candidate for the program.

Weekend Backpack Meal Program

According to a press release from the ERHF, even in the small Plateau community, many children leave school on Friday and do not get another hot nutritious meal until they return to school Monday morning for breakfast. The goal for the NFN weekend backpack meal program is to provide food for Enumclaw elementary students each weekend with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and a couple snacks. Research shows that children who do not have enough to eat during the weekend are not able to effectively return to school and focus on classroom work when they are hungry. Hunger with Plateau children is increasing which has initiated the interest of a committee of about 12 volunteers to provide support with a weekend meal program in Enumclaw School District.

The long-term goal is to provide this program in each of the five Enumclaw School District elementary schools. A pilot program will launch in late spring at Southwood Elementary School with a full offering to the same school next Fall.

White River School District is currently implementing the weekend meal program for its second year in two elementary schools. White River works with several community groups including the Buckley Kiwanis and the Community Presbyterian Church. White River currently serves approximately 50 students each weekend.

Sandwiches at Youth Center

In addition to the backpack program that will start in 2013, NFN has been serving youth in our community by preparing and delivering sandwiches to the Enumclaw Youth Center for more than a year.

"The Enumclaw Youth Center is supplied with sandwiches Monday to Friday all year long," said Ryan Overbay, an Enumclaw Youth and Family Resource Center staff member. "Every day, at least 25 youths are served, all donated by our churches and community members."

Since this program has started, a noticeable impact on positive behavior has been identified as a result with the youth that the sandwiches serve.

Involving the Community

Donations are gladly accepted to help make Neighbors Feeding Neighbors a continued success whether it is for youth or seniors. Hunger is an increasing issue right here in our community. Whether you make a one-time donation of $5 or give $50 each month, your donations stay local and will make a difference with either a child or senior.

If you have any questions regarding the Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program, please contact Rene’ Popke at 360-802-3206 or renep@enumclawrhf.org.

Editor's Note: Information in this article was provided by the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation.

To learn more about the Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation, visit www.enumclawregionalhealthcarefoundation.org.

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