By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Hudson – In February, Janice Long, director of the Hudson Senior Center, was contacted by Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) to see if she would be interested in collaborating with the school’s Hospitality, Recreation Management and Food Service (HRM) program. The students involved are learning about elder nutrition and this seemed like a good fit.
“Diane Duran, Council on Aging Board chairwoman, and I met and agreed this supplement would be like a catered affair, a meal that participants would enjoy a couple of times a week. After meeting with the Board of Health, the program was approved and we have been getting terrific feedback from those who choose to order a meal. We have even had town employees calling to order a meal to go. I have even ordered a meal and the food has been delicious,” said Long.
The meals are created with nutritious and fresh ingredients and can be tailored for those with a dietary restriction. There is a conscious effort to balance proteins, healthy carbohydrates, vegetables and more. There is typically a large decanter of spa water, which on this particular day, had cucumber and pineapple slices floating throughout.
The catered meals are brought to the Hudson Senior Center on Mondays and Fridays each week until the end of May. In addition to providing a festive experience, this also provides the guests with a great opportunity to socialize with one another. Fridays tend to be a bit busier because there is a Music Jam program going on simultaneously.
While most of the participants choose to dine in, there are some who simply order their meal and have it wrapped to go home with them. This makes for a simple process once dinnertime approaches. Some even order more than one meal.
For those who reserve at least 24 hours ahead, their meal costs $5.50. For meals that have not been reserved, the cost is $6.50 per meal.
“This program supplements the Meals on Wheels program that we have here. I feel really good that we are helping the school and giving the seniors another valuable experience. I feel fortunate that they contacted us,” said Long.
“I did my associate’s degree in food service from QCC and after I graduated, I was able to get a full-time position there. I think this is a great opportunity for seniors to come together and have a meal prepared by the students. I also get to witness seniors sitting with others that they may not have met and witnessing friendships bloom,” said Kashmir Stevenson.
“I will be graduating in May from QCC with my degree in the hospitality, recreation management and food service program. I am on the food track and I am grateful to be working part-time doing this as well. I get to meet a lot of new people and learn how this process works and pay attention to all of the details needed to make a luncheon flow smoothly,” said Ashley Donnelly.
Rebecca King, manager of QCC Healthy Options and HRM Program food service lab site supervisor, Marlborough Senior Center, likes to partner with senior centers.
“It gives the students an opportunity to immerse themselves in an environment that they might work in if they were employed in the healthcare facility as well as a diverse population. Our Dietary Management Program that does this specializes in schools, colleges, health care and other non-commercial food service arenas. It’s not only about the food but the environment as well. It’s a great learning opportunity for the students and gives them invaluable experience,” said King.
Hudson resident Janice McNally ordered her meal to go.
“My dinner is all set and I won’t have to cook,” she said. “It smells like it is going to be delicious!”