One community is combating loneliness and hunger, one forkful at a time.
The Weld County Senior Nutrition program in Greeley, Colorado, is trying to keep its 1,200 seniors healthy and happy. County officials use federal funds designated to help seniors through traditional outreach programs such as Meals on Wheels as well programs that serve as a gathering place.
Dozens come every Monday and Wednesday to the Friendly Fork, Greeley’s Senior Activity Center dining hall for dishes like spinach salad, pasta with meat sauce and prime rib—all at no cost. Seniors don’t get a bill. Instead, they give a donation, and $3 is recommended.
Eating healthy can be a challenge for seniors, who may have difficulties chewing or swallowing, health conditions, potential drug complications or decreased sense of taste.
“They’ll say, ‘It’s too bland, it’s too bland,’” says Meredith Skoglund, senior nutrition supervisor to The (Greenly) Tribune. To add taste without sodium, they’ve added spice shakers at the end of the food line.
But more than the good eats, the Friendly Fork serves up social nourishment. Round and rectangular tables are reminiscent of a high school cafeteria, where seating is unofficially assigned, and people regularly meet to catch up over a meal.