Partnership with 76ers delivers meals in Sinclairville
The Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services (OFAS) is an agency dedicated to advocating for and providing services to older adults in our community that help to promote and preserve their independence, safety and wellness. One way in which OFAS works toward that mission is through our Nutrition and Wellness department’s home delivered meal service, called Dining In. The mission of the Dining In program is to provide necessary nutrition to older adults who are unable to get out of their homes, prepare their own food, and do not have others to help them. We carry out this mission by planning very nutritious meals that are appropriate to meet the needs of older adults, and then collaborating with delivery organizations to have the meals delivered directly to our clients’ homes. One of those delivery agencies, the Sinclairville 76ers, has a storied and celebrated history with our OFAS programming.
The foundation of the partnership between Chautauqua County’s OFAS meal programs and the Sinclairville 76ers dates back to the 1970s, just 15 years after the passing of the Federal Older Americans Act in 1965. The Older Americans Act legislation gave life to agencies like our Office for Aging Services and directed tax dollars to be specifically set aside to promote the health and wellness of older adults in America. Part of that federal (and state and local) money goes to providing consistent access to nutritious food for older adults, as we know that poor nutrition and limited access to food is correlated with poor health outcomes in adults over the age of 60. Many neighborhood groups, churches and coalitions had been (and continue) providing food to those in need in their communities long before the Older Americans Act provided a formal funding structure for it. Other groups formed in response to the national recognition of this problem, specifically in rural areas of America, including many parts of Chautauqua County. One such group, forming in 1976, was the Sinclairville 76ers. The staff and volunteers from the 76ers offered their help and expertise in some of the earliest and formative years of OFAS’ food programs, specifically, delivering OFAS’ Dining In meals in the town of Sinclairville and surrounding areas.
More recently in 2020 and 2021, leaders from the 76ers: Richard Smith, Patti France and many other volunteers, worked closely with OFAS and our other contracted delivery agencies (Dunkirk Fredonia Meals on Wheels and Jamestown Meals on Wheels) to continue to serve safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We had to revamp our delivery procedures to ensure our Dining In service could continue while keeping both clients and delivery staff and volunteers safe and healthy. This collaborative effort ensured that the people most vulnerable to both food insecurity and increased risk of mortality from Covid-19 were provided access to nutritious meals during a time when recommendations were to stay home and avoid public areas like grocery stores and markets.
Requests and needs for supportive aging services over the last two years have increased, related to both the Covid-19 pandemic and the largest generation of Americans (the Baby Boomers) “coming of age” for these types of supports and services. OFAS has been working on re-developing our Nutrition & Wellness infrastructure, systems and processes in preparation for this increased need and demand for our services.
Since 2021, we have seen the need for access to nutritious meals increase steadily, and all research and data points to a much more rapid and steep rise over the next decade. We have worked collaboratively with our contracted partners in the Dining In and Dining Out (OFAS’ restaurant dining) programs to ensure we have the capacity to meet the growing needs, including a 5 day a week service for all Dining In clients.
With these changes to increase food access for as many older adults in Chautauqua County as possible, the Sinclairville 76ers have decided to retire their delivery role with OFAS’ Dining In service, and instead focus solely on hosting the very popular Dining Together site at the Sinclairville Fire Hall. The Dining Together program was also formed out of the Older Americans Act with a purpose to encourage socialization and independence in the community around the provision of a nutritious meal. The Sinclairville 76ers have hosted a Dining Together site for dozens of years, and while nationally many of these community meals sites are closing because of low participation, the Sinclairville site continues to be a popular local spot for members of the community to meet for a delicious meal on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The friendly staff and volunteers plan fun events, interesting activities and take time to honor special moments, too. OFAS’ other delivery partners (Dunkirk Fredonia Meals on Wheels and Jamestown Meals on Wheels) will continue delivery to Dining In clients in Sinclairville and surrounding areas.
The Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services is very proud to continue our partnership with the 76ers in the Dining Together program and are extremely grateful for the staff and volunteers over these four decades who have helped to grow these programs in Chautauqua County.
If you, or someone you know over the age of 60 is interested in enjoying a great meal at the Sinclairville Dining Together site or any of our other Dining Out sites (including Meeders Diner, Central Station, ShurFine, or UPMC Cafe), please call us through New York Connects at 716-753-4582 to learn more about how simple it is to join!
Lacey Keefer Wilson, MPH, RDN is the Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Nutrition & Wellness Program Coordinator.