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Darrell Boots welcomes the meals arriving via Meals on Wheels. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)
Darrell Boots welcomes the meals arriving via Meals on Wheels. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Senior dining a highlight for many

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news Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

The knock on the door brings a smile.

"Most people are absolutely delighted to see us," said Julienne Malm, who with husband Carl, is among the volunteers that load their vehicles with lunches in "green" microwavable containers, a list of addresses and instructions in hand.

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They set off across Park Rapids as the noon hour approaches five days a week to bring what for many is the main meal of the day.

The volunteers often step inside, the knock unheard, but the reception warm.

Senior dining is "more than a meal."

That's the message members of the Hubbard County Nutrition Council hope to convey as they step up an effort to bring the meals to more members of the county's 60-plus population.

"We feel the community is underserved," said Bob Hansen, who serves on the council. "People think it's income based; but it's not."

An average of 30 nutritionally balanced meals per day head out to Park Rapids residents via Meals on Wheels, the food prepared by A'viands at the Law Enforcement Center.

About 20 arrive for lunch at Woodland Court Apartments, Donna Williams the dining manager.

A donation of $3.50 to $6.10 is suggested, with SNAP vouchers (food stamps) accepted. Income or assets are not a consideration; no senior is denied service.

"The cost of a year's worth of meals is less than a day in the hospital or nursing home," points out Darlene Morgenstern-Loch, assistant director of the Lutheran Social Service Senior Nutrition Program.

The program allows people extended time in their homes, Hansen said, citing his mother as an example.

Five area churches and Living at Home partner with LSS to provide volunteers for Meals on Wheels.

Residents within Park Rapids may board the Heartland bus at no charge and head to Woodland Court Apartments for the meals.

Senior Dining Center options include Park Rapids' Great Northern Café, the Nevis Senior Center and Northwind Cafe, the Headwaters Cafe in Akeley and Lake George Café.

In Laporte, meals arrive from the Walker Senior Center, a volunteer arriving to assist with preparation.

Funding limitations currently preclude delivery in the county's rural areas. But family members may pick up frozen meals to deliver to seniors.

The noon meals served via Meals on Wheels, restaurants, senior centers and Woodland Court Apartments complement independent senior living.

A recent survey conducted by LSS in Region 2 found 65 percent of the seniors responding experienced improved health.

And the volunteers act as watchdogs. "If no one's home, or answers the door, they report this," explained Morgenstern-Loch.

Senior Dining Centers serve as social meccas. And the meals provide motivation to shave and bathe, she said. "There's social contact." The volunteers have saved lives of people who've fallen. And they will enlist aid for those experiencing other types of medical problems.

As people age, or are home alone, cooking and eating are no longer a priority.

For some, heading to the grocery store is difficult. Using a stove may be a safety concern.

Studies show older adults can feel better immediately and stay healthy for the future by eating healthy foods.

A balanced diet and physical activity contribute to a higher quality of life and enhanced independence.

Good nutrition keeps muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts strong for the long haul.

Eating vitamin-rich food boosts immunity and fights illness-causing toxins. A proper diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer and anemia.

Also, eating sensibly means consuming fewer calories and more nutrient dense foods, keeping weight in check.

As the holiday season approaches, Hubbard County Senior Nutrition and Meals on Wheels will host "A Taste of Christmas" Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Park Rapids American Legion.

The day will include a cookie walk at 1 p.m., a silent auction from 1 to 6:30 p.m., photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus all afternoon and a Scandinavian Christmas buffet served from 4 to 7 p.m. Thrivent will provide matching supplemental funding.

Monetary donations are welcome, Hansen said, noting the program runs at a deficit. These may be mailed to Bob Hansen at 18831 Eagle View Dr., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

A board member is currently being sought for the nutrition council. Members are seeking someone over 60 who's been involved as a driver to gain a perspective on seniors' needs.

For information on Meals on Wheels or senior dining, call 255-1240, 237-2798 or 732-5690.

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