A grand opening of the nutrition site at the Ocean County Southern Service Center will be held Wednesday, May 1 at 11 a.m.
A week before Superstorm Sandy struck the region, the county held a Medicare workshop at the center to determine how area senior citizens would feel about a meal program.
“They loved it,” Director of Senior Services Jane Maloney said during a presentation at the Ocean County Freeholders’ pre-board meeting. “Unfortunately, Sandy arrived and the National Guard came in and everything was pushed back.”
Following Sandy, FEMA, the Small Business Administration, St. Francis Center’s food pantry, insurance carriers, counselors and more used the center, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said.
“It’s proven again and again to be a major asset,” he said of the building that officially opened in 2011 and offers a wealth of county services.
Beginning May 1, the center will serve lunch five days a week to residents 60 years old and over, Maloney said.
“It’s a well-balanced, nutritionally sound, hot lunch program that will be served to older adults residing in the southern portion of Ocean County,” she said. The nutritional program will extend from Stafford residents to Long Beach Island, Mystic Island and Tuckerton.
“We will be highlighting the completion of the kitchen upgrade at the site and welcoming our seniors from our southern municipalities who are part of the county's nutrition program,” county spokesperson Donna Flynn said.
Vicari, who serves as chairman of Senior Services, chose the May 1 date because it is the first day of Older Americans Month.
“This is an appropriate way to kickoff a month that celebrates our seniors and their many contributions to Ocean County,” Flynn said.
This year to date the county delivered 41,000 meals and served 11,000 congregate meals, figures that are down because the Brant Beach and Lavallette locations had to be closed, Maloney said.
The meal is “critical” to seniors as a survey shows that 73 percent of current congregate nutrition site participants and 93 percent of home delivered meals clients are at moderate/high nutritional risk.
“Good nutritional programs keeps people out of hospitals and prevents them from having all sorts of conditions,” Maloney said.
The site is in a “great location,” close to public and local transportation, major corridors, and there’s adequate parking, she said.
The center also provides socialization, recreation, education and health screenings.
“People need services now more than ever before. And we’ve made it as easy possible,” Vicari said.
Other services available at the center include Community Service Inc. of Ocean County, Ocean County Surrogate, Veteran’s Service Bureau, Long Beach Island Outreach, A Friend’s House and Long Beach Island Senior Services, among others.
Residents who need a meal or a ride to the center can call 609-489-4644.
The Ocean County Southern Service Center is located at 179A S. Main St. in Manahawkin.