Local café provides meals to seniors under new state program

Mirna Zepeda, cook at the Roost Café, prepares the senior breakfasts to be delivered for the Great Plate program.

YUCCA VALLEY — The novel coronavirus 2019 has closed down several local businesses, community relief programs and transportation programs, reducing access for seniors citizens to adequate nutrition and healthy foods. In an attempt to close that gap and keep seniors healthy, Gov. Gavin Newsom launched the Great Plates Delivered program that delivers three nutritious meals a day to seniors and provides money to restaurants, many of which are struggling to stay afloat.

The program launched statewide on April 24 and reached Yucca Valley last week. The program is state funded and run through the county department of aging. It offers meals to seniors 65 and older or age 60-64 who are at high-risk from COVID-19.

Participants must also live alone, earn no more than 600 percent of the federal poverty limit and be receiving no other assistance from federal or state nutrition programs.

Aging and Adult Services enrolled The Roost Café at Hawk’s Landing Golf Course in Yucca Valley to provide meals to seniors, instructing them that the meals must be healthy. Owner Cindy Melland said that, after being approved by the county, she and her staff created a menu for the seniors they deliver to with options changing daily. Melland is also the publisher of the Hi-Desert Publishing Company.

Staff at The Roost Café delivered three meals to their first six customers on Thursday. Wearing masks and gloves, they delivered breakfast in the morning and came back in the afternoon to deliver lunch and dinner so that the meals were hot for the customers when they ate them.

“It’s really a blessing,” Melland said. “This program not only helps the seniors but it also helps our business, which has been open for pickup only since March.”

Melland went out on deliveries with her team on Thursday and said she was excited to see how the customers reacted to the food.

“They were all very thankful for the food but one of the cool things about this today is that these people also just wanted someone to talk to,” she said. “They’re already so excited to have a visitor.”

Melland said many of the seniors have been cut off from their family and friends due to the pandemic and several of them were wary during their first delivery, making sure that her team was taking proper safety precautions. But after a few more visits and conversing with the delivery personnel at a distance, Melland said the customers and the staff are becoming friends, bringing some much-needed human interaction to both parties during this difficult time.

“I know that after all of this I’ll at least have six new friends,” she said.

County Human Services Communications Officer C.L. Lopez said the program is currently scheduled to run until June 10, which is the time allotment approved by FEMA, but the state already plans to request an extension to allow the program to run until we are well toward the end of the pandemic.

She was unsure if any other restaurants in the Morongo Basin were signed up for the program but she encouraged local small-business owners to apply so that the county can reach as many needy seniors as possible.

“We do have other programs for seniors but this program is specifically for those affected by the current pandemic,” she said. “We want to encourage everyone who can participate to reach out to your local providers.”

If you are a restaurant owner who would like to provide meals for this program you can submit an interest form to the state at https://covid19.ca.gov/restaurants-deliver-home-meals-for-seniors/. The state will then pass your information onto the county, which will contact you for more information. 

If you are a senior interested in receiving meals, call (888) 743-1485.

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