Food feedback

From left, Marquette Senior Services Manager Maureen Sullivan and Marquette Arts and Senior Services Coordinator Tristan Luoma, speak to attendees of the event, which aimed to educate attendees about congregate meals and gauge their intertest in the senior center becoming a congregate meal site. It also gave attendees a chance to meet Sullivan and Luoma, who are new staff at the center. (Journal photos by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Congregate meals could potentially be coming to the Marquette Senior Center this summer.

Local seniors had a chance to visit the Marquette Senior Center Tuesday to enjoy a congregate meal and provide feedback about the possibility of the center becoming a site for congregate meals. Attendees also had a chance to meet senior center staff, including new staff members Maureen Sullivan, who is the senior services manager and Tristan Luoma, who is the Marquette arts and senior services coordinator.

Congregate meals, which aim to offer seniors nutrition and socialization, are offered by Community Action Alger Marquette at several locations throughout Marquette and Alger counties, including the Negaunee Senior Center, the Forsyth Township Senior Center, the Ishpeming Senior Center and more.

“The purpose is not just to come and eat, but it’s to see your friends, make new friends,” Community Action Alger-Marquette Community Nutrition Services Director Lori Stephens-Brown told attendees. “It really helps with your nutrition to have someone to eat with and it just makes it a more enjoyable experience.”

The event was held because Sullivan had heard there might be interest in congregate meals being offered at the Marquette Senior Center, she said.

Local seniors and officials sample a congregate meal provided by Community Action Alger-Marquette at the Marquette Senior Center Tuesday.

“One concern that was brought to my attention when I first stepped into this role was the opportunity for community meals at our center; and how that isn’t something we were currently offering,” Sullivan said. “It was something that people wanted to see, that become pretty evident almost immediately. So this is our attempt at partnering up with CAAM to fill that gap.”

Attendees of the event filled out surveys after the meal to let organizers know if they’d like to see the Marquette Senior Center offer congregate meals.

“It’s up to the seniors to decide if they want it,” Stephens-Brown said. “And the survey that they’ll take, it asks how many days they’d like to see it.”

While a formal decision has yet to be made on offering congregate meals, pending further review of the surveys collected, Sullivan said the initial response appeared positive, noting she saw a “great turnout” for the event.

“From the surveys, it seems like people are open to the idea,” Sullivan said. “We still have to analyze them a little bit further and see what those details look like, but it seems like people were really receptive to idea of congregate meals at the Marquette Senior Center.”

A congregate meal with lasagna and garlic bread prepared by Community Action Alger-Marquette sits atop a congregate meal menu for May. Attendees of an event at the Marquette Senior Center Tuesday had a chance to learn about and sample congregate meals by CAAM to gauge their interest in bringing congregate meals to the senior center. Center staff is currently analyzing surveys from attendees and expect to decide in June if the center will become a congregate meal site. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

The center plans to announce a decision on congregate meals in June, Sullivan said, noting that it will be announced in June senior center newsletter, the senior center’s website and it’s Facebook page.

If the center does become a site for congregate meals, the meals will be offered for a suggested donation of $3.50, but Sullivan and Stephens-Brown emphasized that donations are not required or tracked.

“We want to make sure everybody feels welcome and even if they can’t donate anything, that they still feel welcomed into the group to eat,” Stephens-Brown said. “So it’s a private donation, we never track who gave a donation.”

Overall, Sullivan’s favorite part of the event was getting to know attendees and seeing “the laughter that was happening at the center, the liveliness that was brought by the amazing people in our community,” as it showed her what could be possible if the center became a congregate meal site, she said.

“I think one of the real benefits it provides is not only proper nutrition, but hopefully a welcoming place for people to gather and share what’s going on in their lives and laugh,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is grateful to all who helped organize the event and all who attended, she said.

“I want to give a big ‘thank you’ to CAAM and Lori and her team over there. They were fantastic, they prepared such a lovely meal and just were really good hosts. And it couldn’t have gone on without them,” Sullivan said. “As well as my staff here at the center, they were phenomenal. So I just want to give a lot of credit to them and to the community and everybody that showed up.”

For more information on CAAM’s community nutrition programs, which include congregate meals, meals on wheels, food pantries and commodity foods, visit www.communityactionam.org/community-nutrition or call 906-228-6522.

Individuals 60 or older, as well as the spouses of those 60 and older are qualified to attend a congregate meal at any site in Marquette or Alger county, organizers said.

For more information on the Marquette Senior Center, its events and services, call 906-228-0456 or visit www.marquettemi.gov/departments/community-services/senior-center/. The Marquette Senior Center also maintains a Facebook page that can be accessed at www.facebook.com/MQTSeniorCenter.

The Marquette Senior Center is located in City Hall along the 300 block Baraga Avenue, but can also be accessed from the 300 block of West Spring Street.