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Senior meals four-year contract granted to Valley MOW

Having opened its own kitchen two years ago, Valley Meals on Wheels bid for and received the four-year contract to provide Meals on Wheels and meals served at senior centers for Spokane County beginning in 2011.

Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (ALTCEW) has granted the contract for providing Meals on Wheels, which has for 30 years gone to the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD).  ALTCEW allocates the funds from the Federal Older Citizens Services Act and the State Senior Citizens Services Act.

Nick Beamer, director of ALTCEW, said Governor Christine Gregoire recently told him to expect up to a 30 percent reduction in overall funding for the State Senior Citizens Services Act in 2011. 

He said it’s the first time in five bidding cycles—20 years—that there has been a competing bid.

Pam Almeida, executive director of the 35-year-old Valley Meals on Wheels (MOW), said, “we faced cuts year after year and figured that, by removing a layer of management, there would be more funds for services, so we decided to vie for the contract.”

Having its own 3,000-square-foot kitchen at 218 N. Crestline St. added to Valley MOW’s potential to streamline and save money, so “government and donor funds would go further,” she said.

The contract pays for only half of the program, so Pam, who has been there 12 years, appreciates that Spokane is generous and “will not tolerate seniors going hungry.”

With the $608,815 it will receive each year for meals, and $12,000 for transportation, Valley MOW will prepare from 650 to 700 hot meals a day—in contrast to 400 to 450 for its own clients—adding clients of Mid-City Concerns, which has had a contract with the SRHD Senior Nutrition Program, and other county outlets. 

The chef makes meals from scratch, she said, adding that Valley MOW will hire more staff and seeks more volunteers in the kitchen to stretch the funds.

Hot meals are delivered Mondays through Fridays, and frozen meals on weekends.

“The last few months, we have seen tremendous growth in need,” Pam said.  “A recent client survey found that for 40 percent of clients it’s their only meal in a day, up from 33 percent in the past.  In addition, 93 percent said the meal kept them in their home.  Meals on Wheels is a less expensive way to care for people.  One year of meals—$1,000—costs less than one-fourth of nursing home costs for a month—$4,000 or more.”

Valley MOW recruits and coordinates about 250 volunteers and currently delivers 1,250 meals each week.

For the senior lunch program—officially called “senior congregate meals”—Valley MOW will have 11 sites under the 2011 contract.  Mid-City Concerns will continue to make their own senior lunches, and Cheney Care Center will continue to make senior lunches for Cheney residents.

Seniors must be 60 or older or disabled, homebound and having difficulty preparing their own meals to be eligible for home-delivered meals.  To receive meals at a senior center, they must be 60 or older.  The programs suggest a donation of $3.50 for a meal.

Lynne Quimby, Spokane Regional Health District manager for the senior nutrition program, said that the contract goes up for bid every four years.  Its Senior Nutrition Program has been providing meals through contracts with the providers, Valley MOW and Mid-City Concerns and area senior centers.

“The Spokane Regional Health District will work to make accommodations for our four staff.  We will have a responsibility in the transition of services, so clients will continue to be served meals through the end of the year,” Lynne said.

Nick said, “Valley MOW’s bid responded to ALTCEW’s criteria for service delivery and budget.”

Valley MOW also plans to extend Meals on Wheels and senior lunch programs to Fairfield, Rockford and Latah, in southern Spokane County, and to the East Valley, areas that have not previously had services.

“We will look for gaps in service in the whole county,” Pam said.

For information, call Pam at 924-6976 or Nick at 458-2509.

Copyright © December 2010 - The Fig Tree