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LSS celebration’s nutrition program’s 10th anniversary in Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- Lutheran Social Services celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing nutritious meals to local seniors Wednesday, with representatives of the Worthington City Council and Nobles County Board of Commissioners sharing in a meatloaf ...

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LSS Nutrition Program Site Manager Brenda Gronewold dishes up meals for attendees Paula Ausham, Betty Schwarzenbach and Jean Bunge Wednesday morning at the Center for Active Living. Lutheran Social Services has provided the nutrition program to local residents for 10 years. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Lutheran Social Services celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing nutritious meals to local seniors Wednesday, with representatives of the Worthington City Council and Nobles County Board of Commissioners sharing in a meatloaf dinner while hearing a bit of history about the program.

The Nutrition Program was created more than 40 years ago by Western Community Action. Worthington, along with Redwood Falls and Marshall, were the first three sites to open in 1974. Today, 40 sites are located within Region 8.

When Lutheran Social Services (LSS) took over the program in Worthington a decade ago, meals were served at the American Legion. The program later moved to the American Reformed Church before relocating to the Center for Active Living (CAL).

The LSS Nutrition Program, which now provides meals in 39 Minnesota counties, offers one of two meal delivery programs available in Worthington - the other is provided by Sanford Worthington Medical Center. Both prepare home delivered meals, but LSS also offers congregate meals Monday through Friday at the CAL.

Brenda Gronewold is the site manager, serving hot meals to guests and coordinating four volunteer drivers to deliver between 45 and 55 meals each day.

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The number of home-delivered meals has increased in recent years, though attendance at the CAL for the noon meal is sporadic.

“Here, I can have two (diners); other days I’m up to 15 or 18,” Gronewold said. “Roast beef (on the menu) will bring more people in. Their food’s really good, but (some) want just the roast beef.”

On Wednesday, four local seniors attended the meal. All widows, they said they enjoy getting out of the house, eating a nutritious meal and visiting with each other.

“I’ve made new friends and that, to me, is important,” said Joanne Johnson. “When you’re in your 80s, you have a lot to reminisce about.”

Betty Schwarzenbach worked until age 83, and for the past two years has enjoyed noon meals at the CAL.

“The meals have been excellent,” she said.

“It’s a variety of food,” Paula Ausham added, saying she enjoys getting together with others. “The big thing is being able to converse with friends.”

Every Tuesday, Ausham goes from being a diner at the CAL to delivering meals to those who aren’t able to drive to the center for lunch.

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“As a driver, you kind of check up on them - see if they’re feeling all right,” she said.

Gronewold said other drivers do the same. Some have even been asked to change a light bulb or fix a widow’s tech-laden television.

The home-bound appreciate the visit as much as the meal.

The meals, prepared by LSS, are dietitian-approved, with each day’s menu planned to meet nutritional requirements. Joanne Bartosh, Nobles County A.C.E. Coordinator and attendee at Wednesday’s meal, said the foods are prepared without added salt.

“The food is engineered for the older person’s diet - it’s an FDA-approved meal,” she said.

Gronewold said the meals ensure Worthington’s older residents get one good, nutritious meal a day.

While the delivery program operates only during the week, residents can order weekend meals, which are delivered frozen and can be reheated in the microwave. Each client also gets a shelf-stable meal, which they can save for a day when the weather is bad and the meals aren’t delivered.

“Some of the people don’t eat that much, so it can be two meals for them,” Gronewold said of the weekend offerings.

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Meals are delivered between 11:15 a.m. and noon, with the meal at the CAL served at 11:30 a.m. Menus are created for an entire month, so people can choose which days to either order a meal or go to the CAL for lunch.

The Nutrition Program caters to individuals age 60 or older, with a suggested donation of $4 to $7.25 for a meal, though they do not deny service to anyone over age 60 who is unable to pay. Those younger than 60 must pay $7.25.

Gronewold is currently working to find sponsors for two-buck days, in which seniors pay just $2, with the business sponsor agreeing to pay the remaining $2.

“We’ve had a lot of sponsors and I’m trying to get more lined up,” she said.

The food served at the Worthington site is prepared in Luverne, with meals dropped off both at Adrian and Worthington. Once the food arrives, volunteer drivers collect meals to deliver.

“I have 27 volunteers and I always can use more,” Gronewold said. “In the wintertime, a lot of people are on vacation.”

The LSS Nutrition Program is funded in part by a contract from the Area Agency on Aging, with funding from the federal Older Americans Act through the Minnesota Board on Aging.

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Brenda Gronewold (far right), meal site manager for Lutheran Social Services' Nutrition Program at the Center for Active Living, speaks to attendees prior to Wednesday's meal. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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