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What does it cost, how do we pay?

By Musetta Wollenweber
SUN Columnist

For a few days recently, I was in Denver attending a state training and a statewide association meeting. Seems like there’s always something to learn and that’s a good thing.

The association meetings are the best opportunity for me to listen to other nutrition directors in the state and steal ideas. Even after 12 years, there are always new ideas to ponder.

One of the hot topics at this particular meeting was suggested meal donations and the average that is actually collected. The set suggested donations vary from site to site. We learned that some folks participating at the various meal sites are unaware that the suggested donation is just that — a suggested donation. By having a suggested donation at a meal site, one is able to participate at a monetary level they are comfortable with, so no one is turned away due to their ability to contribute. One individual might have a limited income of $600 a month, enabling them to only contribute $1 or so a meal, while another person might live on $1,300 a month and be OK contributing the full $4; another might have an income of $3,000 a month and feel they can contribute the full cost of the meal. It is completely up to the individual concerning what they feel they can contribute.

The suggested donation at Café Fox is $4, but what do you get for your four bucks? A delicious, nutritionally balanced meal that includes our wonderful salad bar with lots to choose from, and good company to go along with great food.

Many folks have commented that the $4 suggested donation couldn’t possibly cover the cost of the meal. They’re right, it doesn’t come close. The cost of one meal runs somewhere between $10 and $11, but what actually goes into the cost of a meal? Let’s take a look at the cost; I think you’ll be surprised.

There’s the obvious one: food. Our cook sits down once a month to menu plan, and she makes sure she chooses appropriate menus based on the nutrition requirements at the federal level. Once the menu is set, office staff type up the plan and send it to the dietician. She may or may not make changes, then it’s sent into your newsletter, to this column and to www.archuletacounty.org.

The cook needs to pay close attention to the menu plan and decide when to order food and supplies. When food arrives, staff stocks the pantry, refrigerates and freezes appropriate items. The actual preparation of the meal is time consuming; washing, cutting, slicing, peeling, boiling, mixing, mashing, stirring, serving, etc.

Staff time is a key piece of our program. There are many rules and regs to abide by, one being background checks. Background checks on volunteers are completed, food safety and sanitation training continues throughout the year for both staff and volunteers. The tracking of each meal at the greeter desk is key as well, including the data entry of each meal. Without it, we do not receive reimbursement for a portion of the meal cost from our Area Agency on Aging.

Not only are we required to track the number of meals, we need to empty the donation box daily, count and deposit the monies, as well as track the information on a spreadsheet.

Other parts of the puzzle in preparing a meal include the supplies — from the pots and pans to foil, plastic wrap, thermometers, towels, oven mitts, etc. And once you’ve enjoyed a meal on that plate, it needs to be washed, which means dishwashing soaps and someone to make sure it is clean for you. The floors are swept and mopped daily. Yep, that’s more supplies too.

How about utilities and rent? Electricity to light the dining room, office and kitchen. Gas for the stove and ovens. Heat and air conditioning for the building, water for cleaning, drinking and cooking. Phones to take your reservation and answer your questions are needed, as well as other standard office equipment and supplies.

The kitchen has special needs; grease trap emptying, for example, as well as fire suppression contraption inspections and vent cleaning.

Then, there’s always the surprise of an aging piece of equipment that seems to need attention in the form of a repair. Never a dull moment.

Between the suggested donation and the AAA reimbursement, we are challenged with raising funds to make up the difference of $2 to $3 per meal, which means seeking donations from other entities and finding grant money. From the AAA, we receive approximately $5.50 for each budgeted meal, plus the average donation of around $2.46 or so.

It’s truly amazing all the little details that go into making a meal and I’ve certainly not captured everything here. But, you get the idea — it adds up. The entire process is especially for you, every last piece of it that provides you a nutritious meal, along with great company in a nice environment.

We invite you to join us at Café Fox, enjoy the food and the ambience for a suggested donation of $4, or what you think you can afford. Sit back and relax, let us do the work. We hope to see you soon.

Contest

Think you can guess correctly when the first inch of snow will fall outside Café Fox? Well, you better call me quick: The deadline to guess is Friday, Oct. 12. The winner will be treated to a free meal and I’ll even serve it to you.

Dr. Kurz

Dr. Kurz will join us in Café Fox to chat about sexual dysfunction. What it is and what are the possible treatments? Tuesday, Oct. 16, 12:15 p.m.

Weekly activities 

Friday, Oct. 12 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk, last day to guess first inch of snowfall.

Monday, Oct. 15 — 10:30 a.m.-noon flu shots; 12:30 library news with Tiffany; 12:30 p.m. Gym walk; 1 p.m. Canasta.

Tuesday, Oct. 16 — 11 a.m. Alzheimer’s support group; 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk; 1 p.m. Meditation for Healing.

Wednesday, Oct. 17 — 10:45 a.m. Stretch and Breathe.

Thursday, Oct. 18 — Closed, administrative day.

Friday, Oct. 19 – 9 a.m. Geezers; 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 10:30 brain injury support group; 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk.

Café Fox menu

All meals include our great salad bar.

Thursday, Oct. 11 — Lemon chicken, oven browned potatoes, broccoli, whole wheat bread, split pea soup, chocolate pudding.

Friday, Oct. 12 — Beef tacos, refried beans, salsa, fiesta corn, fruit salad.

Monday, Oct. 15 — Grilled ham and Swiss sandwich, homemade tomato soup, crackers, salad, banana slices sprinkled in orange juice. 

Tuesday, Oct. 16 — Chicken fried steak with white gravy, mashed potatoes, California veggie mix, salad, apple, whole wheat roll.

Wednesday, Oct. 7 — Chili con carne (ground turkey), wheat crackers, sliced yellow squash, fresh apple.

Thursday, Oct. 18 — Closed.

Friday, Oct. 19-Baked tilapia with mushroom sauce, peas, yogurt and cucumber salad, Mandarin oranges, bran muffin.

Reservations required by 9 a.m. the morning of the day you would like to dine at Café Fox.

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $4, guests $6, kids 12 and under $4. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act via the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other donations and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $10.50. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m., with lunch served from noon to 12:30 p.m. 264-2167 for reservations.

This story was posted on October 17, 2012.