Peace Meal program will keep hot meals

CHAMPAIGN — East Central Illinois seniors will keep hot delivered lunches through the Peace Meal program after all.

Peace Meal was set to end Sept. 30 and be replaced by a frozen meal delivery program provided by Danville-based CRIS Healthy Aging Center, but state legislators stepped in on behalf of meal recipients who complained and rallied to keep a hot meal program, officials said.

The Illinois Department on Aging investigated, and in an agreement reached with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, the administration of the meals program was changed from CRIS to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Mattoon. Sarah Bush Lincoln  plans to keep the hot meal format.

The hospital had been one of the applicants to take over the meals program when Peace Meal's longtime sponsor, Eastern Illinois University, wanted to end its involvement, said Sarah Bush Lincoln spokeswoman Patty Peterson.

Peace Meal provides hot meals to seniors four days a week in 14 East Central Illinois counties.

It delivers hot lunches to home-bound seniors and also serving hot lunches at 52 congregate meal sites.

CRIS planned to expand the program by delivering frozen meals seniors could reheat, which would require fewer staff and allow for putting money into more meals.

Under Sarah Bush Lincoln's administration, Peace Meal Director Barbra Wylie will continue to lead the program and Peace Meal's staff members will be offered positions, Peterson said.

The hospital will continue a meal delivery system of four days a week, but will investigate the possibility of bringing back a five-day delivery service that was cut in 2011 due to funding reductions.

Sarah Bush Lincoln says it will be awarded nearly $1.3 million to operate the Peace Meal program. It costs about $2 million to run the program, and the difference is made up by contributions from agencies such as United Way and individual contributions for meals.

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