Peace Meal program to be replaced this fall

CHAMPAIGN — The Peace Meal program that provides hot meals to seniors four days a week in 14 East Central Illinois counties will end Sept. 30, and it will be replaced by a new program using frozen meals.

Peace Meal — which serves hot lunches at 52 congregate meal sites and also deliveries meals to home-bound seniors — has been sponsored by Eastern Illinois University for nearly four decades.

But the university decided to end its sponsorship, so the Eastern Illinois Area Agency on Aging conducted a competitive process to select a new sponsor and chose Danville-based CRIS Healthy-Aging Center to take over the program Oct. 1.

The intent is to keep all congregate meal sites in the 14-county area open, said Michael O'Donnell, executive director of the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging.

But, he added, "CRIS will use a different format. They will use a frozen product."

Peace Meal — which has been serving about 1,400 people a day — has five central kitchens to prepare meals in bulk and deliver them to congregate sites and put them in containers for home deliveries, O'Donnell said.

Through CRIS, seniors getting meals at home will still receive the same number of meals, but receive deliveries twice a week, O'Donnell said. All clients will be assessed to make sure they have the appropriate home equipment to reheat frozen meals, he said.

The 14 counties served by the program includes Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, McLean Moultrie, Piatt and Shelby counties.

The suggested contribution for a meal is $3.50, and most people pay $1.90 to $2 per meal, O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell said CRIS will be able to provide the meal service with fewer staff — about 78 people as opposed to the 95 employed by Peace Meal — and that efficiency is important as funds continue to decline and the elderly population continues to grow.

"Instead of putting money into staffing, we can put more money into meals," he said.

Peace Meal Director Barbra Wylie, however, said there was enough funding to continue a hot meals program and she contends the seniors of East Central Illinois deserve better than frozen meals.

Peace Meal rejected the idea of frozen meals in the past because it believes frozen meals don't meet the needs of the most frail elderly, she said.

Some seniors using canes and walkers have trouble moving meals from freezers to microwave or conventional ovens, and arthritic hands can't remove lids from trays or open milk and fruit containers alone very well, Wylie said.

"We provide support. We provide contact. We are opening your milk," she said. "We believe we are more than just a meal, and a frozen meal is just a meal."

Wylie said Eastern Illinois University had worked with Peace Meal to find a new sponsor for the program, and Peace Meal was working with the other applicant to become the new sponsor, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, which would have maintained a hot-meal format.

In an open letter to the communities it serves, the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging said CRIS demonstrated a "willingness and ability" to increase participation in the congregate meals program and respond to the need for home-delivered meals, especially in unserved areas.

CRIS also demonstrated a willingness and ability to restore the congregate meal program to five days a week, the letter states.

Peace Meal cut service to four days a week in 2011 because of funding reductions, but O'Donnell said clients could still get a meal for the fifth day that they could reheat on their own.

CRIS will give Peace Meal employees a chance to apply for the jobs that will be available in the new program, O'Donnell said.

CRIS plans to make Champaign its headquarters for CRIS meals, said CRIS CEO Amy Marchant.

Already the provider of such nutrition programs in Vermilion County as Meals on Wheels and several congregate meals sites, CRIS has experience with frozen meals and has found they work well for the clients because people can eat whenever they want to, Marchant said.

"After we implemented the frozen meals in Vermilion County, we had a slight reduction for a few weeks because the sound of frozen meals didn't sound as appealing to some people," she recalls. "Then after six weeks, the numbers soared."

CRIS can serve one-third more meals going the frozen route, Marchant says, "which is so important because the need is climbing and the funding isn't climbing."

Marchant said CRIS plans to have volunteers make phone calls to fill in for fewer personal visits.

More information:

Peace Meal: http://bit.ly/127q3HX

CRIS Healthy-Aging: http://vermilionseniors.com

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (2):Food, Social Services

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Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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Central Illinois- The Peace Meal program that provides hot meals to seniors four days a week in 14 East Central Illinois counties will end Sept. 30, and it will be replaced by a new program using TV Dinners.

40 Years, 52 congregate meal sites, five central kitchens, 1400 people a day, including home delivery, 95 people, over fourteen counties. What could have changed to alter a 40 year arrangement? Why? Follow the money, or lack there-of.

Home-bound people were being checked daily. Now they will be checked to see if they own and can operate a microwave oven to reheat a TV dinner.

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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“The suggested contribution for a meal is $3.50, and most people pay $1.90 to $2 per meal, O'Donnell said.”

Perhaps this is why Eastern is dropping the program, because the price is suggested and not mandatory and the state isn’t picking up the tab since the State is BROKE!

The REAL story is that 95 jobs that are about to evaporate. You can’t run a CRIS program and a Peace Meal program at the same time, doesn’t work that way. The 78 jobs are already taken and the 95 will find out about state unemployment insurance.

"Instead of putting money into staffing, we can put more money into meals," he said.

Like I said, not more staffing, just less food prep.

Trisha wrote on July 09, 2013 at 10:07 am

Most of what you say is true, but not all.  The difference is made up with the FEDERAL funding - not the state.  If Mr. Joe can only pay $2 the difference is made up with the funding.  The funding is NOT gone, obvioulsy misplaced.  EIU chose to get out, not Barbara W.  SBLHC applied to take the place and provide the same service, if not improved, as EIU did.  Obviously the ECIAAA had other plans in place.

 

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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“Peace Meal Director Barbra Wylie, however, said there was enough funding to continue a hot meals program.”

But she didn’t return the Peace meal program to five days a week when she had the chance to in my opinion. She is ultimately responsible for the program at Eastern being a failure. She determined that by keeping the congregate sites at four days a week instead of five, she could compete with frozen meal prices….  Ooops.

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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"We provide support. We provide contact. We are opening your milk," she said. "We believe we are more than just a meal, and a frozen meal is just a meal."

And the Seniors of Central Illinois are about to find this out the hard way…  They cannot “un-ring” this bell. The seniors I’ve talked to said “oh, we’ll try it”, like they will be able to “opt out” later and go back to Peace Meals. WRONG! Once it’s done, it’s done, and believe me, it’s done. The decision is made. TV Dinners!

The Congregate meals will be taking the TV dinner out of the freezer in the site kitchen, and putting it in the microwave. “TV Dinners with friends.” Special!

 

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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“CRIS also demonstrated a willingness and ability to restore the congregate meal program to five days a week, the letter states.”

And Barb Wylie could have already done this had she chosen too… But trying to cut costs had to affect something, and since the food was already at the lowest possible cost, the only thing left was labor. So, like the government with Sequestration, furloughing employees one day a week, Peace meals sacrificed the employees’ unemployment benefits for a lower bottom line. Remember, Illinois State Unemployment is based on the number of hours worked in the last eighteen months, so by decreasing employee hours, Wylie decreased costs to the program and exposure to higher unemployment liability to the University. Want to bet she has a spot lined up at Eastern University somewhere as a “Thank You”?

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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“CRIS will give Peace Meal employees a chance to apply for the jobs that will be available in the new program, O'Donnell said. “

As of this posting, only three vacant jobs, all require a bachelor’s degree.

 “Already the provider of such nutrition programs in Vermilion County as Meals on Wheels and several congregate meals sites, CRIS has experience with frozen meals and has found they work well for the clients because people can eat whenever they want to, Marchant said.”

TV Dinners are convenient.

"After we implemented the frozen meals in Vermilion County, we had a slight reduction for a few weeks because the sound of frozen meals didn't sound as appealing to some people," she recalls. "Then after six weeks, the numbers soared."

Because people get hungry, and free is free…

 “CRIS can serve one-third more meals going the frozen route, Marchant says, "which is so important because the need is climbing and the funding isn't climbing."

One way to kill a program is privatizing it, and then defund it so it goes bankrupt. This is the part where they privatize it. Next comes the big surprise when the program vanishes completely.

 

Krazi Dave wrote on July 07, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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“Marchant said CRIS plans to have volunteers make phone calls to fill in for fewer personal visits.”

“Mr. Smith did not answer his phone today when the CRIS volunteer called, so a SWAT team was dispatched to the scene where they gained access by knocking down the front door to find him in the restroom. Mr. Smith will make a full recovery from stun grenades used to subdue him in the effort to save him.”

But that’s just Krazi, Dave!