Those 60 years old and “better” now have an opportunity for a free hot meal out on the town. Nonprofit Meals on Wheels opened up an Elk Grove location of their All Seasons Cafes over at the Light of the Valley Church, 9270 Bruceville Road. The Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting at the location on Nov. 6.
The Cafe opens at 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with lunch served at 11:30 a.m. The menu changes every month and there’s a different entree every day. Entrees could include: spaghetti and meatballs, cacciatore chicken, and tilapia with coconut curry rice.
This Café may also include the following activities before and after the meal: coffee and conversation, bingo, cards, puzzles, crafts, music, guest speakers, nutrition classes and presentations. Additionally, guests are welcomed to the cafe by Micah, the comfort Golden Retriever of Light of the Valley Church.
There are 20 All Seasons Cafes throughout Sacramento County, which supplement the home delivery meals. All meals get prepared at the distribution site, located in Sacramento’s Rosemont area, before they’re delivered to the cafes. From there, volunteer drivers deliver take-home meals to residents or All Seasons volunteers heat up the food for the 11:30 a.m. lunch at the cafe.
“The All Seasons Cafes are pretty much for folks who like to get out. You don’t have to be a member of the church to attend (the cafe). The biggest myth is that (the service) is income-based. People are always asking, ‘What’s the catch?’ We don’t really ask for anything aside from the age minimum,” further explains Angela Roberts, Meals on Wheels Marketing and Outreach Coordinator.
“We do ask if folks are interested in attending that they call in advance so that the cafe makes sure that there’s enough lunch for everybody. Some cafes are (busier) than others.”
There are no financial obligations to receive free meals and younger seniors are encouraged to take advantage of the free meals be it through the free deliveries, the cafes or both,” Roberts said.
An Elk Grove resident, Roberts said at Light of the Valley Church, All Seasons Cafe serves on average about 30 people, but the center can sustain 60 seniors.
Asked why she repeatedly used the phrase “60 or better” rather than “60 or older”, Roberts said, “Some seniors in their eighties have been attending the cafes for 20 years and there are others who are just now learning about this. So this is why we try to make our language and our outreach very inclusive.” She added that a lot of the participants are volunteers as well and will arrive early to set up the cafe and then eat with their peers.
Prior to the cafe’s opening at Light of the Valley Church, it operated out of the Senior Center of Elk Grove. The new senior center will be located at Civic Center Drive and Big Horn Boulevard, just south of Elk Grove Boulevard. In addition to its senior center space, the 31,500-square-foot building will also include a community center and the city’s first dedicated veterans’ hall.
Roberts said the new senior center location will include a cafe where food will be available for purchase by anyone, and therefore will operate different from All Seasons Cafe.
“We weren’t part of that move, so that’s why we were looking for a new partnership and we were lucky to find one with Light of Valley, especially because of its central location in the city,” Roberts said.
As opposed to other All Seasons Cafes in the greater Sacramento area that may be held at senior centers or parks and recreation locations where seniors frequent for classes and camaraderie already, Roberts said there has had to be more recruitment and marketing for Light of the Valley.
“It was really tricky because we were trying to balance,” she said. “We could only serve up to 60 people and we connected with the Chamber but we had to find the happy medium.... We can always plan for more. We would like to do more outreach and recruitment not just for those that attend the cafes but also for those who volunteer.”
Roberts added that the city of Elk Grove is a major funder and there are participants who spread all the way out to Wilton, so Meals on Wheels is always in need of volunteers as well.
Putting more awareness into the cafes has been a prime focus for Roberts who continues to demystify the myth that the meals are based on income eligibility.
“Most of the people who come to the cafes don’t come just for the meal, they come because it’s a chance for them to socialize and connect with others,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to connect with the community. For so many of them, it’s the highlight of their day.”
For more information on Meals on Wheels, call (916) 320-9556.