February 14, 2012 in News

Meals, not wheels, focus of new senior cafe

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The menu at the Silver Café, which opened last week, rotates on a daily basis and includes entrees such as chicken cordon bleu, cacciatore, Salisbury steak and Swedish meatballs.

And while that may sound like standard fare, this café is unique in Spokane for other reasons: It’s a Meals on Wheels program that leaves the delivery trucks behind with cooks eager to serve up food for people of all ages.“There’s a stigma about Meals on Wheels that it’s not very good food and we’re trying to change that,” said Executive Director Pam Almeida.

Meals on Wheels now delivers most of its food to senior centers, but Almeida said that wasn’t reaching some people.

“There are a lot of seniors that will not go to senior centers, but can really benefit from good, nutritious food,” she said.Seniors will pay what they can for the meal; the recommended donation is $3.50. The cost for the general public is $6 per meal. Proceeds from the public’s meal purchases at the North Nevada Street café will be funneled back into the program.

“It would be nice if ends up paying for itself,” she said. “It would be great if it ends up paying for the rest of the program.”

A $50,000 grant from Wal-Mart and the Meals on Wheels Association of America allowed Almeida to open the café, with the help of volunteers. The local Meals on Wheels program was one of 20 nationwide to win a grant.

One or two entrees will be offered each day, as well as side dishes, milk or juice, a dinner roll and dessert or fruit. There are vegetarian options and lattes will be available soon, she said. Most of the cooking is done at the Meals on Wheels central kitchen and transported to the café, where the final prep work is done.

“People can choose when they are going to eat,” she said. “We wanted to have more of a bistro-type feel.”

In its inaugural week, the Silver Café has had some customers, but Almeida is hoping things will pick up in the coming days.

“We wanted to open quietly to make sure we had everything down,” she said. “Now is the time to get the word out.”

After getting the grant, she sought out the right building and location. There are a lot of seniors and low-income households in the restaurant’s North Spokane neighborhood, and it’s walking distance for many, she said. The price was right, too, and much of the equipment from the Moose Crossing Café that used to occupy that space was included.

Although the faint smell of fresh paint still lingers in the little café and there’s still some work to be done, volunteers at The Silver Café are ready to serve seniors and the public.

“It was all done by either myself, staff or volunteers,” Almeida said. “I’m really happy it’s done. I didn’t think it’d ever get done.”

Lisa Johnson, a volunteer delivery driver for Meals on Wheels, dined with friends last week. She had pork roast and cheesy potatoes.

“I thought it was awesome,” Johnson said. “It tasted like a homemade meal my mom would make.”

Fellow diner Seth Robertson, who is not a Meals on Wheels volunteer, vouched for her assessment of the food.

Between bites of his plate of veggie-topped beef tacos he said, “They’re real good.”

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