'We come 5 days a week': Hospital's senior meal program offers good food, good company
BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. — The coronavirus pandemic paused many programs, especially for older adults.
But one geared toward seniors at St. Luke’s University Health Network is back in full force and serving up good food as well as good company.
In the early evenings, sounds of laughter and chatter fill the dining room of St. Luke’s Anderson campus cafeteria.
“Can't beat $3.99."Patron Gary Midash of Bethlehem
“Sometimes we come five days a week,” Dorothy Midash of Bethlehem said.
Midash and her husband, Gary, are part of a group of regulars who go to the hospital nearly every day for the older adult meal program.
“Can't beat $3.99,” Gary Midash said.
St. Luke's offers the low-cost healthy meals to people 65 and older as well as for veterans across the Lehigh Valley from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at St. Luke’s Anderson and Warren campuses, and seven days a week at the Monroe location.
“The food's like, very good," Dorothy Midash said. "You know, you get a nice entrée and dessert."
Right-sized portions, and friends
Robert Samra, general manager of food and nutrition at the Anderson campus cafeteria, said "there have been days, on great weather, we do over 100 seniors in those hours. Our average is about 75."
Samra said the program offers people who may not otherwise get out much a chance to socialize and enjoy a nutritious meal.
“The right sized portion with the right sides of My Plate, different vegetables and starches and grains, helps them out and it's also it's mentally healthy to be able to socialize.”Robert Samra, general manager of food and nutrition, St. Luke's
“All of our meals we run through a program called neutronics, so we know that it's healthy for people and portion sizes," he said. "Obviously you can't have a huge portion and be healthy.”
“The right-sized portion with the right sides of my plate, different vegetables and starches and grains, helps them out and it's also it's mentally healthy to be able to socialize.”
Dorothy Midash said, “we have one gentleman who comes down from Saylorsburg every day. So he’s in his 90s and he looks forward to it every day."
Her husband added, “We met a lot of really nice people here. [We] build relationships, friendships.”
Samra said St. Luke's is a big partner within the community and this effort shows that.
“They know that people need to get out and socialize. It's healthier for them to meet new people and interact with people.”
'Now we're back'
It's not just the camaraderie that seems to be enjoyable, but the food seems to be the talk of the dining room, as well.
“I like the salmon," Dorothy Midash said. "They have salmon quite often. It's good."
The meal changes daily and includes an entrée, soup or salad, a drink and dessert. The culinary team even takes dietary restrictions into consideration.
“I'm diabetic, so they always have fresh fruit that they allow us to swap out for the dessert. They also have a vegan meal every day. A lot of people take advantage of that.”Patron Dorothy Midash
“I'm diabetic, so they always have fresh fruit that they allow us to swap out for the dessert,” Dorothy Midash said. “They also have a vegan meal every day. A lot of people take advantage of that.”
During the pandemic, dinner was not served, but now it’s up and running once again for the older population to come together, save on dinner and socialize with friends.
“We came here for like a long time and then the pandemic hit, and then they didn't have it and now we're back,” Midash said.