Hoboken University Medical Center kicked off a new Senior Dining Program on March 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at HUMC’s cafeteria. Each Wednesday, the program will provide any senior citizen from Hudson County with a hot, well-balanced meal for $5 and no one will be turned away.
Responding to a need
“We wanted to give back to the community,” said Allyson Miller, vice president of business development and physicians relations at HUMC, last week. “We realize that in these stressful economic times people are going through hardship.”
According to the Administration on Aging, nationwide, almost 3.5 million elderly persons, or 9 percent, were below the poverty level in 2010. In Hudson County, 10.4 percent of the population is 65 and older, according to the 2010 Census.
Miller said that after talking to local community groups and hearing from residents, the hospital recognized how some individuals are struggling in this economy, especially those on a fixed income. Since the early 1960s, Social Security has provided the largest percentage of aggregate income for older Americans, according to the AOA.
Miller said the $5 fee covers the hospital’s expenses to prepare the meal.
“This is the first senior dining program in Hudson County that is hospital-based,” noted Miller. “We expect a fairly large response to the program.”
HUMC officially opened under new ownership last year after being sold to a private company that also co-owns Bayonne Medical Center.
Miller expects 50 to 60 seniors to take advantage of the service each week, but said HUMC is willing to expand the program to more days should there be a greater demand. Director of Food and Nutrition Frank Biafore said the first night was a success and that thirty-three seniors attended from all parts of Hudson County.
Miller said transportation will not be offered from other towns.
The meals will take place every Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. through the end of the year. Future dates include March 14, 21, and 28.
The Senior Dining Program will offer a well-balanced, hot meal.
“This is a healthy food program. You are not going to find real fattening food on the menu,” said Miller. “If someone is vegetarian, we will have pasta with vegetables. We are trying to accommodate people as best we can.”
Miller said the Dietary Department will accommodate any senior on a special diet. She said the HUMC Dietary Department has spearheaded the effort around the Senior Dining Program and deserves all the credit for coordination.
Open to all of Hudson County
HUMC has reached out to senior centers throughout the county and conducted marketing and outreach to invite seniors to partake of the program.
“We have an open door policy,” said Miller. She said that the hospital won’t be strict about checking identification or checking proof of income.
The hospital pays for the program out of a community outreach budget. The community outreach program also includes lectures and free screenings.
“This is our first foray into the food program,” she said. “We are sort of open to fulfill a need within the community that we can provide assistance with.”
She said that HUMC is open to speaking with other organizations about exploring food-related programs.
For more information, contact HUMC at: (201) 418-1136 or (201) 418-2381.
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