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Senior lunches affected as soon as April

Feb. 19, 2013

A cutback in the senior lunch program in Mukwonago now has a timeline.

Beginning in April, senior lunches at the BirchRock Apartments will be offered four days a week, instead of five days a week, eliminating the low-attendance Friday lunch, according to Mary Smith, supervisor of the Aging and Sustainability Resource Center of Waukesha County.

BirchRock has been serving senior lunches along with a home delivery program for the past 14 years. Smith said the declining senior population in Mukwonago and the low attendance at BirchRock Apartments on Fridays, coupled with a growing population in New Berlin and demand for that program to move to five days created a reason to examine the best use of resources.

"The county site manager at Mukwonago is retiring, and that offered us the perfect time to really take a look at being open in the right locations at the right times," Smith said.

The senior lunch program, hosted through the Aging and Sustainability Resource Center of Waukesha County, provides hundreds of warm lunches per day through their home delivery and congregate dining services. While home delivery requires special qualifications, meeting for lunch at one of the 10 dining centers in Waukesha County only requires participants to be 60 or older to enjoy the free lunch. There is a suggested donation for the meal, but time at the location also includes social and educational elements.

"Socialization and nutritional education are important parts of this federally funded program," Smith said.

Residents at BirchRock Apartments gathered Monday to enjoy chicken and mashed potatoes with carrots and a dessert. With smiles they all chatted as their hot lunch was served.

"The meals have been very good, especially lately," said John Dalsasso. Lola Davis chimed in with "They're getting better and better!"

Both residents have been enjoying the warm lunches for more than two years. Davis only attends select lunches, while Dalsasso attends every day. It's a small but chatty crowd of seven this Monday and they are eager to explain how more than 20 filled the dining hall for Valentine's Day just last week.

"It's good food, but also fellowship," David said.

Looking at the numbers, Mukwonago averages about 12 participants daily, with Fridays dipping to around seven or eight. Mukwonago also delivers an average 28 home meals. New Berlin, currently only open Monday through Thursday serves an average 20 seniors per day and has 55 residents registered for home delivery. By those numbers alone, Smith said it just makes sense to recommend Mukwonago reduce its program.

"Unfortunately, the budget does not allow me to just add days to programs," Smith said. "I have to look at how I can make this work for everyone involved."

Smith said she plans to speak with seniors at BirchRock this week about options for Friday participants. She said those participants can look into qualifying for home delivery; if they do not qualify, they will be welcome at any of the other locations that have Friday service, including New Berlin, Waukesha, Sussex, Menomonee Falls, Oconomowoc, Hartland, Butler, Muskego and Brookfield.

Smith said that the biggest challenge now is to continue to recruit volunteer drivers in New Berlin to ensure they have delivery service available with the increase. Mukwonago's home delivery on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday will be unaffected.

Plans for this change will be finalized in March, and seniors will notice a different schedule as early as April. For more information on senior dining or to register for a location, visit www.waukeshacounty.gov or call (262) 548-7826.

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