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Bringing more folks to the table

Tastes are changing and so is the senior dining program at the DPC Community Center.

Beginning Sept. 12, nutritious hot lunches that were formerly available to those 60 and older can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Instead of catered meals, the food will be prepared on-site by staff from the Nutrition Services Department of School District 833.

"We are changing what we're offering," said Rebecca Kropelnicki, marketing and intergenerational activities coordinator at the DPC. "The program used to be a federally funded program for 60 and over."

The meals were catered by Optage Senior Dining Choices in Roseville, an affiliate of Presbyterian Homes & Services. Under terms of the federally funded program, only seniors 60 and over could partake.

"The people that are using the center are not all 60 anymore," she said. "We've got a lot of boomers coming. The people coming here were not eligible for the program. This opens it up."

The menu will be the same fare served to students at the South Washington Alternative High School, which is housed in the same building. The school's kitchen is being upgraded.

Wendy Tracy, Nutrition Services director, said the menu will include more healthy choices, including a salad bar, fresh fruit and hearty meals.

"What we're trying to do has a menu that runs in conjunction with the high-schoolers," she said.

Meals will be served weekdays from 12:15-12:45 p.m. The cost is $4 per person and reservations are required three days in advance.

Lunch will be available year-round, even when school is not in session, Tracy said. The food will be fresher since it's not trucked in from another location and reheated.

"With this new program we can feed the students and then feed the senior public, but along with that open it up to the whole community," she said.

The DPC is part of the district's Community Education Department.

Jeremy Misener, customer service manager for Opted Senior Dining Choices, said it makes sense for the DPC to utilize its own kitchen.

Unlike some of Opted's other clients, such as Norris Square senior living facility in Cottage Grove, the DPC doesn't have a live-in clientele. They're competing for the senior dollar with Applebee's and the McDonald's Dollar Menu, he said.

"It's very hard to get people to come to a place for lunch," Misener said. "It's just totally different. You still have to create enough value for someone to get out of their car."

"The numbers have been down," Kropelnicki acknowledged. "We just want to try something different."

For more information, call 651-425-6650 or visit cecool.com.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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