Grovetown city officials approached Columbia County leaders at a Monday meeting to request help in bringing better meals to the city's seniors.
City Councilman Dick Manion told county commissioners at Monday's Management and Financial Services Committee meeting that the 30 meals provided to the Grovetown Senior Center each weekday by the Gainesville, Fla.-based GA Foods Services Inc. are not "good meals."
The meals, at $4.45 each, are paid for by a $37,000 grant from the Area Agency on Aging and more than $7,000 a year of city funds.
Manion said he'd like to switch meal providers to the Columbia County Detention Center, which provides meals for the county's meal distribution program based out of the Euchee Creek Senior Center.
"We went to request funding from the county on the principle that our people are citizens of the county like everybody else," Manion said, adding that he is requesting 40 meals per weekday.
Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services Division director, said the county previously used the same provider and said, "it really was not that good of food."
The jail kitchen now provides what Tucker calls a better meal for only $2.10 each. Annually, the meal program costs $84,000 to provide 160 weekday meals to the Euchee Creek center, Tucker said.
"It is so much less expensive and the food is wonderful," Tucker said.
Betty Laverty, who runs the Grovetown Senior Center, said nearly 20 people visit the center for lunch daily and another 15 are delivered to homebound seniors by center volunteers. Laverty said the additional meals would allow the center to feed three homebound seniors who have been on a wait list for months and any visitor that a senior brings to the center.
"I think more people will eat if the food was better," Laverty said.
However, stringent grant restrictions stipulate that if the Grovetown center changes meal providers, the $37,000 in annual grant funds are lost. Manion said he requested that the county fund the $11,800 it would take to provide the meals from the jail to the center from February 2007 through June 2007. Partaking in the program from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, which is the county's fiscal year, would cost an additional $27,500.
"That has to come from somewhere," Tucker said, noting that the additional costs to provide meals to the Grovetown Senior Center and the city's homebound would put a lot of strain on the program's budget, which would increase 30 percent annually with no additional rises in costs. The addition of Grovetown in the program would also stretch volunteers and equipment to their maximum.
At Monday's meeting, Commissioner Diane Ford recommended that the issue be debated at the commission's next full board meeting on Tuesday, adding that further discussion is needed "because this is in the middle of a fiscal year for us."
Manion said he met with county leaders Wednesday and another meeting was planned for Friday morning.
The issue will be decided at Tuesday's commission meeting.
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