The Subcommittee on Senior Centers, chaired by Council Member Paul Vallone (D–Bayside), held a hearing last week which focused on the current availability of culturally appropriate meals for seniors supported by the Department for the Aging (DFTA) and exploring possibilities for expanding these meal services; both for senior center congregate meals and home delivered meals.
Among the problems that emerged were cost and the reduction of meal providers from 90 to 20, within a year after the DFTA issued a Request for Proposal (RFP).
Regarding the question of cost, Vallone explained the DFTA currently reimburses providers a standard $7.35 per home delivered meal. But because of the specific requirements involved in preparing culturally sensitive foods, “The actual cost is oftentimes more expensive and the providers are expected to absorb the additional cost,” Vallone explained.
As for the sharp reduction in the number of providers who are preparing meals, Vallone said, it “may be limiting providers who can provide cultural and ethnic meals from obtaining contracts.”
Vallone also said, “The groups present overwhelmingly supported the need to increase reimbursement for costs of meals, especially for culturally sensitive meals, in order to provide expanded nutritional options for seniors.”
He said extending meal service back to a full six days from five was also met with support.
Vallone said in addressing these concerns, DFTA Commissioner Donna Corrado stated, “While the agency has made significant strides in providing culturally relevant meals and programming, we can do better. In the coming days, DFTA will evaluate our meal provider network and cross-reference their meal options against current demographic data in their respective communities.”
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