20190702 Senior Nutrition Meeting

Bettye Mitchell, director of aging programs for Area Agency on Aging of East Texas, speaks Tuesday to organizations about senior nutrition partnership opportunities.

KILGORE A public meeting to discuss the future of a senior nutrition program serving people in 14 East Texas counties drew interest from several different organizations.

The East Texas Council of Governments-Area Agency on Aging held the meeting Tuesday at its headquarters in Kilgore. More than a dozen people attended, including potential bidders on the agency’s senior nutrition contract.

The agency has issued a request for proposals seeking traditional senior nutrition providers or emergency providers who would help out temporarily on an as-needed basis. The deadline to submit bids on the contract, for either type of provider, is Aug. 12.

Representatives for the two current senior nutrition contractors attended Tuesday’s meeting: Meals on Wheels East Texas, which currently serves Smith, Gregg, Henderson, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood counties; and Meals on Wheels of Palestine, which currently serves Anderson, Cherokee and Rusk counties.

Representatives from the East Texas Food Bank, the American Red Cross of Northeast Texas, Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Christus Trinity Mother Frances, Sisters of Salvation Community Outreach, and Saturday Initiative Youth Inc. also attended.

Bettye Mitchell, the agency’s director of aging programs, and Jennita Carter, the nutrition program lead, presented information about how the organizations in attendance could bid on federal funded providing through senior nutrition contracts.

The agency currently operates under a waiver to serves hot meals to homebound residents over age 60 in five counties — Camp, Harrison, Marion, Rains and Panola — but agency leaders say they would prefer to turn those duties over to other entities.

“We’re definitely interested as long as it helps feeding the underserved in Northeast Texas, but we haven’t put together an actual bid plan yet,” Tim Butler, the programs director for the East Texas Food Bank, said in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s an at-risk population; if you take their fixed income and pretty common health issues into account,” Butler said. “We have several different programs that really go after these populations that need a little more strategic distribution.”

Lyndsy Dickeson, a Medicare sales agent for Christus Health Plan, said that hospital system has worked with others to help seniors with meal boxes before. She said she does not know if the system will bid on the contract, but she learned a lot about the lack of senior nutrition providers in the area.

“It was definitely very interesting and eye-opening for me,” Dickeson said. “I had just read a brief summary on it. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure of what the Area on Agency was needing, so it was nice for me to go in and sit down with Meals on Wheels” and talk about it.

Frannie Stone, an outreach worker with Goodwill, said the organization has an interest in knowing about the program because when senior clients come in with other issues, Goodwill can tell them about the different programs available to them.

“I was very pleased to see the turnout,” said John Moore, who became executive director of the Tyler-based Meals on Wheels East Texas in June. “I was pleased to see the number of hands go up when they asked how many people were interested.

“A lot of us have family members that need these programs and are already benefiting from these programs, but there have to be organizations that are willing to take on the responsibilities to take care of the clients who need the services,” Moore said.