SUNNYSIDE — Without the Meals on Wheels program, some seniors wouldn’t be able to enjoy healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis.

The program, which serves Sunnyside seniors at the Senior Center, 1400 Federal Way, Monday through Friday between 11 and 11:30 a.m., must serve meals that meet 1/3 of the recommended daily nutrition allowance, Yakima County’s Director Lorena Fernandez said.

“Each meal consists of 3 ounces of protein, two servings — 4 ounces each — of vegetables and a 4-ounce serving of fruit, as well as two servings of bread or starch,” she said.

With requirements as they are, the meals also have a teaspoon of margarine or butter and an 8-ounce serving of milk, Fernandez said.

“By doing that, it’s a good-sized meal for seniors — it helps regulate diabetes and gives them a full meal,” she said, noting some seniors will eat smaller meals at other times during the day.

The meals are all free for people aged 60 and older. For those under the age of 60, Fernandez said the meals are offered at the cost of $7.08, which is more affordable than a $10 meal of equivalent nutritional value.

All meals are scratch-made, Fernandez said.

There are only occasional processed foods included, but those preparing the meals are under the guidance of a nutritionist who oversees the menu.

The food is low sodium, low sugar, higher quality and more nutritionally complete, Fernandez said.

The menus change seasonally, and “… we try to vary the meats on a daily basis,” she said.

The meals aren’t just served to those visiting the senior center. Fernandez said home deliveries are offered for those who are homebound, unable to cook for themselves and without someone to cook for them.

The meals are prepared in advance and frozen. They are the same meals offered at the senior center but can be reheated at a person’s convenience.

“The person has to meet the criteria,” Fernandez said of home delivered meals.

The deliveries vary. They are typically made on Mondays, but Fernandez said the service can be tailored to meet the needs of the senior.

Funding for the program comes from the Older Americans Act, she said, noting that’s what determines the age requirement.

The Sunnyside program serves an average 150 meals each week, Fernandez said, adding there are more who are possibly in need but unaware of the program.

Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email JMcGhan@sunnysidesun.com

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