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Frozen meal packages end on Friday

Federal funding has run out for weekly take-home meal program

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

Susan Daniels went June 16 to Hillside to pick up a week’s worth of frozen meals, as she had done the eight to 10 previous Fridays. Using a walker, Daniels was moving slowly.

“I have serious back issues,” she said. These prepared meals, she said, have been a godsend, as her physical problems make going to the store and preparing meals at home difficult.

With this coming Friday, June 30, marking the last week of frozen meal delivery by Contra Costa County, Daniels isn’t sure what will happen next.

“I don’t know how I’m going to cook and shop now,” said Daniels, a six-year Rossmoor resident.

These frozen bundles –which have included five full meals, including main courses, side dishes and beverages – have been available for residents 60 and older since July 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The frozen meal packages were particularly important at that time because the Friday sit-down meals were suspended as a result of COVID.

While the frozen meals were initially placed in residents’ vehicles to minimize person-to-person contact, more recently folks like Daniels have been walking up to a long table in front of Hillside and grabbing the meal bags themselves. Ninety-two people had signed up to get meals June 16, a figure up slightly from recent weeks.

Tish Gallegos, a spokeswoman for the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department, said the end of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding has spurred the discontinuance of the frozen take-home meals. That follows the Feb. 28 declaration by the state of the end of the COVID-driven public health emergency; subsequently, Café Costa sites throughout the county – including the Diablo Room at Hillside in Rossmoor – have resumed their previous in-person, sit-down schedules.

The Friday-only sit-down meals, served at 11:30 a.m., will continue to be served inside the Diablo Room, said Elena Ybarra, Recreation’s activities/program coordinator, who oversees the Friday food programs. Money for the sit-down meals, the Congregate Meal Program through the county’s Café Costa, comes from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, a different source from that of the frozen take-home meals.

Gallegos said the goal of the Congregate Meal Program, funded by the Older Americans Act, is to provide opportunities for older adults and other eligible people to get out and socialize and enjoy a nutritious meal. A typical lunch consists of an entrée (beef, chicken, pork, fish or pasta), salad and a dessert. The suggested donation is $3 per meal for those 60 and older, and $6 for those younger than 60. Those coming for lunch are asked to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the 11:30 a.m. start time to allow time for signing in.

All Friday Lunch participants must complete a National Aging Program Information Systems (NAPIS) form each year. This must be done in advance and can be done over the phone by calling Ybarra at 1-925-988-7703.

With the Café Costa reopenings, Gallegos said, “seniors who have experienced prolonged isolation from the pandemic are encouraged to come out and once again enjoy a meal with their friends and neighbors.”

Some Rossmoor residents may be able to continue to get meals – five frozen and two fresh per week – after July 1, delivered to their homes via Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, based in Walnut Creek.

Sherry Nadworny, director of development and community relations for Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, said approximately 50 Rossmoor residents already receive help from Meals on Wheels with food, approximately 1,300 meals a year. As of June 20, five Rossmoorians had applied for Meals on Wheels help following announcement of the end of the frozen meal distribution, Nadworny said, and more are expected.

Residents who are at least 60 years old and are not currently driving are invited to apply by calling 1-925-937-8311 or by emailing

“We’re getting more seniors countywide having meals delivered, just because the county’s population is aging,” Nadworny said last week. “The need for meals just keeps increasing.”

As she walked away with her second-to-last bag of frozen meals from Hillside, Daniels said she may well follow up with Meals on Wheels about getting meals delivered to her home. Bob Ebert, a 20-year Rossmoor resident who has been receiving the frozen take-home meals almost since that service began, said he isn’t likely to pursue the Meals on Wheels option.

“Now,” he chuckled, “I might have to learn to cook.”