Food and fun

Marquette Senior Center now offers congregate meals

Attendees of a congregate meal provided by Community Action Alger-Marquette at the Marquette Senior Center socialize with each other. The center recently began offering congregate meals, with the first congregate meal held on June 4 and the second held on Tuesday. The next congregate meal will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 2, organizers said. (Journal photos by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Congregate meals have officially arrived at the Marquette Senior Center, which held its first meal held June 4.

The second congregate meal offered by the senior center was held on Tuesday, which drew the most attendees yet and gave them a chance to socialize while enjoying food provided by Community Action Alger-Marquette, organizers said.

“Everybody loved the food, it was good. CAAM does a phenomenal job, the cooks there do a really great job,” Marquette Senior Services Manager Maureen Sullivan said. “And it was just a fun time.”

Congregate meals, which aim to offer local seniors an opportunity to enjoy a nutritious meal in the company of others, are offered by Community Action Alger-Marquette at the Marquette Senior Center, as well as several locations throughout Marquette and Alger counties.

“We invite anyone that is in need of a nutritious meal to come, or even just fellowship,” Sullivan said. “That’s the most important thing, the food and fellowship. We just want people to know that this is a safe, comfortable space.”

Those who are 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.

Seniors who haven’t tried congregate meals before are encouraged to try the experience out, Sullivan said, noting the meals are provided for an optional donation and senior center staff is “more than happy to answer any questions they may have” about the program.

“It is a great opportunity to try something new and there’s really no negatives involved,” she said. “There is a suggested donation of $3.50 but that is just suggested. People can give whatever they can or feel like they would like to give for the meal.”

Attendees of the first meal showed organizers that the program was indeed needed, they said, as some attendees commented that they enjoyed the chance to meet others at the meal, and one noted they were glad for the nutrition, as they hadn’t eaten dinner the night prior.

“There are many seniors in the downtown Marquette area who are food insecure — and you probably wouldn’t know it if you met many of them. It might be a retired teacher living in subsidized housing, struggling to pay rent, utilities, for medications, transportation — and food is usually last,” Community Action Alger-Marquette Community Nutrition Services Director Lori Stephens-Brown said in an email. “The chance to have a hot, nutritious meal at the Marquette Senior Center can really help out — the senior is just asked to donate what they feel they can afford to donate.”

With the turnout for June’s two congregate meals, the center will be offering the congregate meals three times in July. Meals will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 2, 16 and 30, Sullivan said, noting she hopes the center can eventually offer the meals more frequently.

“Hopefully if we get a consistent amount of people we can maybe even start offering it more,” she said.

“But we’re kind of taking it slow right now just to make sure people are aware of the opportunity and feel comfortable coming down here.”

The decision to offer congregate meals stemmed from an event held by the senior center and CAAM in May to gauge local seniors’ interest in the Marquette Senior Center becoming a congregate meal site once again, organizers said.

“Working with Maureen to re-open the congregate meal site at the Marquette Senior Center has been a blast,” Stephens-Brown said. “Her enthusiasm is contagious and she really ‘gets it’ when it comes to working with seniors. It’s all about what the seniors need, and how can we provide for their needs. We are so thankful to be able to partner with Maureen and her amazing staff.”

Beyond congregate meals, the senior center is aiming to offer further events involving food and fun, such as Taco Tuesdays with drop-in cribbage, which will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on July 9 and 23.

“It’s a very relaxed environment, people just come in and we have cribbage going on,” Sullivan said. “We have people there that are experienced cribbage players and then we have people there that are willing to teach new cribbage players how to play. So that’s something that we’re really trying to promote, to get people back in the game and enjoy a taco while they’re doing that.”

Attendees of congregate meals are asked to RSVP at least one day in advance by calling the Marquette Senior Center at 906-228-0456.

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.

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.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.