SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — To support isolated seniors throughout this tough time, the Center for Successful Aging is offering a free hot meal program.
"It's been extremely difficult for seniors,” CSA clinical director Gary Linker said. “Not only have they become more homebound but they've become more isolated."
Each week, five hot meals are delivered daily to senior’s in the greater Santa Barbara-Goleta area.
"They either can't get to the store or don't have people to go to the store for them,” delivery driver Scott Otto said. “Cooking is kind of difficult when you’re in a wheelchair.”
The meals are freshly prepared at Pascucci Restaurant.
Each senior receives a quart of milk and a daily meal that will include an entrée, salad, vegetable, bread, fruit and some days a dessert.
It is geared toward a low sodium diet, rich in vitamins and minerals.
“We're all isolated during COVID,” Pascucci Restaurant owner Laura Knight said. “They're a whole 'nother level of being alone."
Each day, 125 meals are distributed throughout town.
For some of these seniors, this is their only human interaction.
"These people have told me that I'm the best part of their day,” Otto said. “They love seeing me when I come to the door."
"Not only are the meals important but the connection that we make between our delivery people and the senior is also very important,” Linker added.
Gary Pesek has been living on his own throughout the pandemic.
On days when his family can’t deliver him groceries, he’s reliant on the hot meal program.
"I'm really honored to be able to be receiving food like this with what's going on with the world right now,” he said. “I’m ill, I can't go out."
Federally funded through the CARES Act, this program has supported seniors since May.
However, funds for the hot meal delivery program are set to expire at the end of this month.
"Our funding goes through the end of December and we're having our fingers crossed,” Linker said. “Hoping that the CARES Act is extended and we get a new stimulus package from Congress."
To carry on with daily deliveries in 2021, the nonprofit must raise $30,000 before December 15th.
"No one should be without food, especially in a place like Santa Barbara,” Otto said.
"We just want to make sure they're fed a nutritious meal at least five days a week,” Knight concluded.
To donate, you can visit their website.