Patrons of Grovetown Senior Center might soon be fed by the same kitchen as prisoners if city officials decide to switch meal providers from a Florida company to the county jail.
City officials say that would be a vast improvement because senior center regulars and home-delivered meal recipients are not happy with the quality of the meals they currently receive. A much tastier alternative might come from the kitchen at the Columbia County Detention Center.
In September, Grovetown City Councilman Dick Manion met with Columbia County officials about possibly switching meal providers from Gainesville, Fla.-based GA Food Services Inc., to the county's detention center. Manion said Wednesday that city leaders will meet with officials of the Area Agency on Aging this week to determine what vendor options are available.
The detention center already provides about 160 hot meals each day that are served at, or else distributed door to door by, Columbia County Senior Center on Euchee Creek Drive outside the city. Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker, who oversees the program, called the food "excellent, hot meals" and said the partnership with the jail has cut costs.
"It's been a wonderful partnership for the citizens, many of whom wouldn't get a meal" without the program, she said. The county pays about $2.10 per meal now, compared with its previous $5 a meal agreement with the Senior Citizens Council, which ended a few years ago.
Under its current contract with GA Food Services, the city pays about $4.45 per meal, Manion said. But the city receives a grant from the Area Agency on Aging for $37,000, which refunds the majority of the yearly costs to provide about 30 to 40 meals a day to needy seniors.
The remainder, about $3,000, is paid for by city funds. Manion said higher quality, better tasting meals could be provided by the jail for about $2.10 each, or less than half the cost per meal.
The city's contract with GA Foods does not expire until July and the grants might be lost if certain state and federal nutritional requirements are not met by another vendor, said Grovetown City Manager Shirley Beasley. If so, taxpayers would fund the resulting $18,000 to $20,000 a year tab for meals through the jail.
"If we can't do it with a grant, we (still) want them to have good, nutritious meals and the sheriff's office can do it," Manion said.
Jeanette Cummings, the director of the Area Agency on Aging, said all contracts for services provided through her agency will be up for bid in January, including food service providers.
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