Monticello meal program keeps options open

Monticello meal program keeps options open

MONTICELLO — While the Illinois Department on Aging has reversed a decision that would have led to frozen lunches being used for area Peace Meals, the action may not be enough to keep Monticello's senior nutrition program from going on its own.

"Our board (Piatt County Nutrition Program board) will not make up their mind on what they will do until Monday afternoon," said Mary Koch, site supervisor for Monticello's Peace Meal site.

The nutrition board began looking at options after the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging had awarded a contract to CRIS Health Aging Center, which said it would change the four hot meals a week to frozen ones delivered twice weekly. The change would have affected Peace Meals in 14 East Central Illinois counties.

But Koch said the local nutrition board is "afraid we might go through the same thing" this time next year, since the Sarah Bush Lincoln contract is only through Sept. 30, 2014. In the meantime, the ECIAA will conduct a competitive, multiyear bid process for a food vendor that will take in the fiscal years of 2015 through 2017.

If Monticello decides to pursue its own local program, it would have to fund it. But local officials also see advantages, such as less federal guidelines and being able to serve meals to disabled residents regardless of age.

Another option could be to absorb the program under the umbrella of the Piatt County Nursing Home, which already provides the meals for the program in Monticello.

"We have given them that option, but it is a decision they will have to make," said Gary Coulter, director of the Piatt County Nursing Home.

Either way, he wants the meal program to continue, saying it is a key part of "our overall mission to serve the senior population."

The city of Monticello has agreed to suspend the nutrition program's $150-per-month rent payment for six months while it makes decisions on its future.

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