MONTPELIER — Local seniors can dine in style at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center beginning in July when a new partnership goes into effect that will create a central kitchen for on-site dining as well as the preparation of more than 8,000 meals delivered each year to area seniors and the disabled.
The center has been without a kitchen since a fire in 2009 gutted the building.
Under the agreement with Just Basics Inc. — the local nonprofit that has been providing residents in Montpelier and part of Berlin with delivered meals — the food preparation will move from the campus of New England Culinary Institute to the senior center.
While NECI students have been involved in the preparation of meals for more than a decade, that will end when the kitchen opens. The senior center and Just Basics are seeking a chef, or chefs, who will take over in July.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership over the years,” said Kevin O’Connell, director of food and beverages services at NECI. “But we’ve been doing the food preparation up here with our students, and they’re moving the kitchen into the senior center, so things had to change. ”
Kimberley Lashua, director of the Montpelier Home Delivery Program at Just Basics, added: “There’s deep appreciation for what they’ve done.”
Janna Clar, director of the senior center, said the center also hopes to use the new kitchen for classes and as a café where members and visitors could purchase food at least one day a week.
The center plans to serve meals two days per week, with hopes that the option of getting a hot meal there will encourage some homebodies to venture to Barre Street.
“We’re very hopeful that we can get folks to come down and eat together,” said Clar. “It’s a really important aspect in growing older that we can maintain that social aspect that comes from sharing a meal together.”
Under federal guidelines, all so-called meals on wheels programs must provide a meal at no cost to seniors in need. However, Clar stressed that any financial donations are gladly accepted.
The senior center has 800 members, with 75 percent living in Montpelier. Residents from neighboring communities can join at a negotiated fee, depending on whether an outlying municipality financially supports the Montpelier center. All seniors are welcome to eat at the center on days when a meal is offered.
“We’re providing something that hasn’t been provided before,” said Lashua, “a place where seniors can join together and enjoy each other’s company and a meal.”MORE IN Central Vermont
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