Lorain County’s commissioners approved $ 500,000 for the Neighborhood Alliance to build an expanded kitchen to expand their senior meal program to address food insecurity.
On September 1, commissioners unanimously approved the project, funded by Lorain County’s share of the American Rescue Plan, which will more than double the capacity of the Neighborhood Alliance, to support its programs to assist the elderly of Lorain County expand and expand.
Commissioner Matt Lundy was a strong supporter of the project, saying that healthier seniors are beyond price and that Lorain County is a better place because of their commitment and dedication to the community.
However, Lundy found that far too many people go to bed hungry at night.
There is a need to show them the respect they deserve by supporting the Neighborhood Alliance’s hot meal program, he said.
Chairman Michelle Hung noted that the Neighborhood Alliance provides services to 80 percent of Lorain County’s communities and the project will help meet a critical need.
Hung said food insecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing Lorain County’s seniors, adding not only to their health and well-being, but also to the health system and economy.
“As we get older, even the most independent of us can face financial hardship or a physical obstacle that robs our independence,” she said. “In addition, there is a lack of means of transport. The result is that seniors can be left hungry and alone. “
Hung added that phase one was just the beginning and urged the community to support the Neighborhood Alliance.
“We are a community that wants to see this project and programs successful,” she said. “While we are proud today to help Neighborhood Alliance start this critical period, the work has only just begun.
“It is a journey that needs the help and support of everyone in Lorain County.”
According to the Neighborhood Alliance, more than 34,000 meals were served as part of their senior nutrition program in 2019 and more than 64,000 in 2020.
With waiting lists for all programs and projections pointing to a threefold increase in meal demand by 2026, the agency will build a new, expanded kitchen at its Washington Avenue location in Elyria.
Mark Charvat, Chief Financial Officer of the Neighborhood Alliance, while analyzing the needs of the community, said the agency needs to adopt a new funding model to meet demand now and in the future.
Improving its means of production would allow the Neighborhood Alliance to produce up to 340,000 meals annually, more than three times its current capacity, and add value to the Lorain County communities it serves in a more cost-effective way, Charvat said.
He said while local governments across the country debate and develop strategies on how to harness federal coronavirus funding, the kitchen is tangible with real, quantifiable and direct impact.
The Neighborhood Alliance food kitchen has an estimated price of $ 680,000.
President and CEO Alicia Foss said the project would allow the Neighborhood Alliance to streamline their food prep in one place of four, create a more efficient operation and reduce food costs.
Neighborhood Alliance is housed in the former Elyria YMCA, which donated the property.
The project estimates $ 25,000 for demolition, $ 285,000 for renovations and remodeling, $ 275,000 for a new HVAC system, $ 35,000 for a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, and an additional $ 60,000 for food service equipment .
“We have a plan to expand this program further,” said Foss. “More meals mean fewer Lorain County’s seniors are on a waiting list waiting for home-delivered meals, and that is really the main goal of this project.
“It will also mean healthier diets for our childcare families and for the residents of the homeless shelter we provide. This enables us to source food from the region and offer them fresh fruit and vegetables instead of canned or processed foods. “