1. Briefly describe the specific purpose and goals of the grant. To address the problem of malnutrition among the elderly in the downtown core area of Portland, Loaves & Fishes Centers launched a weekend meal program targeted at the most needy and nutritionally at-risk seniors. Many of these seniors live in studio apartments or hotel rooms, subsist on low incomes and frequently have no facilities available to them to prepare meals. They dine regularly at our Elm Court Center Monday through Friday and often have no access to meals on the weekends. By opening our Elm Court Center on Saturdays and Sundays and providing a mid-day brunch, seniors who live in downtown Portland have a place to gather and receive a hot, nutritious meal seven days a week. This vital service helps our clients maintain their health and physical well being.
2. To what degree were these goals and objectives achieved? The Elm Court Loaves & Fishes Center serves an average of 150 elderly each weekend day. There is clearly a need for hot meals for these seniors, most of whom have no other access to food on the weekends. One of our objectives of this program was to develop programs designed to increase socialization and connections of isolated seniors. While it is clear that these seniors need the daily hot meal, they also gather for conversation and a lot of card games. Our efforts to organize additional activities, such as an exercise program, have not been well-received by the weekend participants. They want their meal and then they want to watch movies or play card games. Our efforts to introduce other activities have been rebuffed.
3. What has been the measurable impact on the population you serve? We have found that the overall health of those who participate in the weekend meal program has not improved, but neither has it declined. Our meal program appears to be sustaining those who are most at risk of malnutrition, those with the least access to food. We have also discovered that some people began coming into the center on the weekends and have since come in for lunch on weekdays as well, increasing the overall participation at the center. We have also seen a marked increase in the need for meals as the economy has declined in recent months. The number of seniors we serve at the Elm Court Center has increased 19 percent over the same period just one year ago.
4. What have been the measurable results of this grant? The Weekend Meal Program at Elm Court Center has helped to focus attention on the needs of the elderly who live in downtown Portland. This meal site is currently in the process of relocating to a larger space next door to its present location. We anticipate that the new center will open in early September, at which time we will begin offering a breakfast program on weekdays in addition to serving the weekend meals. The high attendance at our Weekend Meal Program has helped our negotiations with the City of Portland and other community partners as we continue with the construction at this vital center. Our program has made it abundantly clear that a source for both hot meals and companionship in the downtown core is vital for the health and well being of lonely and isolated seniors.