McFarland Senior Outreach, that serves twice-weekly lunches for older Cambridge-area residents, says it is working to protect seniors and volunteers from the coronavirus by temporarily suspending sit-down meals.

Lori Andersen, the director of senior outreach services for the Village of McFarland, said most meal sites in Dane County, including in Cambridge, that typically have eat-in lunches, are shifting to drive-up mode. 

Now, in Cambridge, lunches are being handed out in take-out containers, in a drive-through system that doesn’t require seniors to get out of their cars.

That minimizes COVID-19 exposure to both seniors and those preparing the lunches, she said.

The Village of Cambridge contracts with McFarland to provide senior meals that are served out of the Cambridge’s Amundson Community Center on Tuesdays and Fridays. The meals are available to local residents age 60 and older for a suggested $4 donation. Andersen said each meal costs about $9.50 to prepare, meaning they’re subsidized by local municipalities like McFarland and Cambridge.

“We’re trying to keep everybody as safe as possible,” while “getting the seniors the nutrition that they need and not denying anybody that food,” Andersen said.

People over the age of 65, and those with compromised health, are considered high-risk populations for being affected by COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control says.

The Amundson Center, Andersen said, averages about 15 to 20 seniors at its lunches.

Andersen said senior meal programs across the county are expecting higher participation in coming weeks. Some programs are already seeing that surge, she said.

“We anticipate that we will see additional people, and we may see people who are more in financial straits because of this,” Andersen said.

The Village of McFarland administers one of 12 “focal points” in Dane County that provide senior meals and outreach to seniors around the county, also under the direction of the Area Agency on Aging, under Dane County Human Services. The senior meals are also partially funded by the Older Americans Act, which gives money to senior support programs.

In addition to meals, the Village of McFarland is checking in with local seniors for case-management. Andersen said her department is making sure seniors have medications they need, support systems and ways of filling their needs.

Andersen said people are feeling alarm at this point.

“Until recently, seniors were not thinking of this as a long-range issue,” she said.

For the last couple of weeks, Andersen said, the focus has been on children and school systems.

“The focus is changing to all citizens that are in a compromised position, which includes the elderly”

Andersen said local residents can help by looking out for seniors they may know, to help them feel less isolated.

“Checking in on your neighbors is really important at this time,” Andersen said.

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