Department of Family Services, Senior Nutrition Program Hits Milestone in a Collaborated Effort, Providing Emergency Meal Kits to older adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic
CAMP SPRINGS, MD – The Prince George’s County, Department of Family Services (DFS) has reached a monumental milestone by providing over one million meals to local seniors during COVID-19. Beginning in March, the Aging and Disability Services Division, Senior Nutrition Program staff have ensured the continued operations of the home delivered meal services to Prince George’s County seniors.
“These are unprecedented times and we have all had to adjust to life during COVID-19,” said Elana Belon-Butler, Department of Family Services Director. “From the height of the pandemic the Senior Nutrition Program has served 1,070,454 meals to area seniors. In a normal 12-month period, our Nutrition Program serves approximately 225,000 meals annually. It is amazing how staff have been able to mobilize, innovate and maintain the continuity of services that are essential to the wellbeing
of older adults, individuals with disabilities, and family caregivers.
Normally, in a collaborated effort, the Senior Nutrition Program and the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) are responsible for home delivered and congregate meal operations to homebound older adults. With the current state of COVID-19, the Senior Nutrition Program is coordinating the packaging of meals to approximately 500 homebound seniors, per day. DPW&T provides drivers and the fleet of vehicles to deliver the meals Monday through Friday. This operation was expanded in March, 2020.
In addition, the Department of Family Services also works with the following key-partners to coordinate, distribute and provide Grab N Go Meals at various locations throughout the county:
• The Prince George’s County Council
• The ARC of Prince George’s County
• Local Municipalities
• Supportive Employment Providers
• Senior Public Housing Facilities
Grab N Go Meals are provided on a bi-weekly basis to over 4,800 seniors constituents, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. For Thanksgiving, 5,760 Grab N Go meal boxes were distributed for a total of 23,040 meals at 15 different locations to ensure seniors could enjoy a complete Thanksgiving dinner during the holiday.
“The expansion of the Senior Nutrition Program has enhanced our ability to serve more seniors, individuals with disabilities and their families,” said Aging and Disabilities Division, Associate Director, Theresa Grant. “All of our nutrition sites were closed as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but the program successfully transitioned those seniors who participated in the Congregate Meal Program to homebound delivered meals, while also increasing the provision of meals to others in need. The expansion was a direct result of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the need to feed more residents.”
In April, the Department of Family Services received $1.6M in CARES Act funding through the Maryland Department on Aging and $4M in Coronavirus Relief Funds from the county, in July, in efforts to provide opportunities for local businesses and increase the pool of vendors who could provide meals to seniors and individuals with disabilities. As a result, Grab N Go Meals began to incorporate frozen meals prepared by locally owned restaurants such as Jordan’s Bistro, Sweet Tooth, Sardi’s, Mom’s Meals, Martin’s Catering, Market Fresh, and Dutch Mill Catering. The Senior Nutrition Program has also expanded it’s contract with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, and providing seniors with fresh produce boxes to include fresh fruits, vegetables and meat -- a further effort to reduce food insecurity during the pandemic.
Plans are currently underway for a Christmas Grab N Go meal distribution throughout the county. Similar to the Thanksgiving Grab-N-Go, the Department of Family Services, Senior Nutrition Program will continue it’s partnership with M-NCPPC and the County Council to coordinate the distribution of special, holiday meals. In addition, the holiday meal boxes will be accompanied by treat boxes which will include fruit, nuts and holiday sweets. Approximately 7,000 holiday meal and treat boxes will be distributed during the month of December.
“As we navigate these challenging times, we are eternally grateful for our frontline workers who continue to make great sacrifices to serve our community,” said Director Belon-Butler. “The Department of Family Services would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of the Senior Nutrition Program team for their hard work and efforts during the pandemic crisis. A special thank you to the Senior Nutrition Program Site Coordinators, Administrative, and Management Staff for their continued efforts in ensuring the coordination and expansion of home delivered and Grab n Go meals. We would also like to thank our key partners, M-NCPPC, DPW&T, the County Council, the Arc of Prince George’s County and our contracted meal caterers and food vendors who have all been instrumental in providing additional staff to assist with driving, meal and produce preparation, and the coordination of food distribution for our most seasoned community members!”
For more information on Grab N Go Meals, call 301-265-8699; TTY 301-699-2544 or visit FamilyServices.MyPGC.US. Seniors must register in advance on Eventbrite. One packaged meal per person. Each person must register; if a couple, both need to register. Must show registration confirmation to receive meals. Packaged meals are for Prince George’s County residents only. Meals are available while supplies last.