School district, Thrive Alliance partner to feed senior citizens

Senior citizens who take advantage of free weekday lunch at the Brown County YMCA will see some changes on their plates.

Brown County Schools’ food service department and Thrive Alliance have partnered to provide fresh meals at the Y, replacing prepackaged meals.

Thrive Alliance has been serving free meals to seniors age 60 and older at The Gathering Place Café in the YMCA since April. Thrive works with Access Brown County to transport seniors to the meal site who can’t drive themselves, said Abby Garcia, Thrive Alliance’s wellness and nutrition manager.

They had been serving microwavable meals to between 40 and 100 senior citizens a day.

“She (Garcia) set that (meal) in front of me and she opened it up. She said, ‘This is what we’re providing for our seniors in the community,’ said Jason Kirchhofer, Brown County Schools’ food service director, whose previous job was program director at the YMCA.

“It absolutely floored me to sit down and look at it,” he said. “I told her ‘We can obviously do so much more.’ We’re innovative with the food. We can create new menus, we can create exciting foods, nutritious foods and we can get people back involved and enjoying the things they like doing.

“Partnering with her for this is just another way to solidify how we as a school corporation can teach not just our kids how to eat right, but also our senior citizens,” he said.

Thrive Alliance will pay the school district $4.82 per meal, but that could change if they decide to serve family-style or individual meals.

The contract with Brown County Schools and Thrive Alliance is for one year.

During school breaks, meals will still be provided, but they will be premade and require reheating, Kirchhofer said.

There may be opportunities for students and senior citizens to interact through this arrangement, Garcia said.

“We would love to make that an intergenerational kind of thing,” she said. “If they don’t have their grandparents here, then they get that added benefit of working with a senior who could be a grandparent figure for them.”

The plan was to have the new food service start last week, after students returned from fall break.