When she saw a photo of a brown box with an egg and half a bagel that was allegedly delivered to a senior in South Sacramento, Shonna McDaniels was not going to sit idly by.
The community activist and well-known visual artist posted a photo of the so-called meal on Facebook for all to see. The photo was spread quickly in the community as a poor representation of the City’s “Great Plates Delivered” senior feeding program.
More disturbing photos of meager meals — not authenticated by The OBSERVER — surfaced on social media platforms from other seniors who say they get deliveries.
The deal for the seniors of Sacramento stems from the state’s “Meals for the Moment, Restaurants Serving Seniors,” program. The city of Sacramento is one of the participants.
This program provides meals to Californians that are age of 65 and over or individuals who have been exposed to or contracted COVID-19, but do not need hospitalization, or are high-risk with underlying health conditions.
Sacramento’s version of the program, “Great Plates Delivered,” contains 140-plus restaurants for more than 3,500 seniors in the city.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is bankrolling 75 percent of the costs. California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, will subsidize the remaining 25 percent for counties and cities.
The free meals program for seniors is part of a broader initiative organized to support California seniors who are isolated at home, adhering to the state’s coronavirus shelter-in-place order.
Ms. McDaniels said the meals were inadequate.
“Somebody is serving skimpy meals to our seniors,” Ms. McDaniels told The OBSERVER. “You can’t be skimpy with the food. Also, (the restaurant in question) is not taking into consideration that our seniors need a balanced meal. Our seniors are not children. They should not get half of a bagel.”
Sacramento City Councilman Larry Carr, who serves the Meadowview neighborhood area that Ms. McDaniels runs her programs in, admitting that photos of the meal are “a little uneven” in terms of distribution by the restaurants.
Carr also said that the food delivered to the seniors has different components and must be put in full perspective. The meals, served three times a day and seven days a week, must be divided.
Carr said he saw the photo of a bagel and a boiled egg in a box. But the councilman declared it was not the full details.
“The biggest problem I’ve seen with it is that the food has to be separated to meet federal standards,” Carr said. “The restaurants give you a big box and within that box are a lot of little boxes. You might open a little box and it’s just lettuce. And you just take a photo and say this what I got. But you can’t have all the food together.”
Carr continued, “What’s happening is that people are not opening the boxes and combining with other components or they don’t know how. I just don’t think we have a restaurant in this world that would send breakfast out with just a bagel and a boiled egg.”
Ms. McDaniels was not the only person making such reports about the program. Similar reports were also coming out of South Natomas, too.
One complainant, who asked for anonymity, said they had no idea what was delivered and ended up not eating at all. The restaurant serves her four times a week. He also said that he has high-blood pressure and some of the food is off limits.
“People have to understand that Black people don’t eat a lot of the food that they are serving nor they know what it is,” Ms. McDaniels said. “Old people have dietary restrictions. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask them what they want.”
In its defense, the office of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has been monitoring the program closely and listening to every complaint.
Steinberg’s staff said it is also receiving positive feedback from the program. Julia Burrows, the special assistant to the mayor who handles housing, transportation, diversity and inclusion issues, told The OBSERVER in an email that the program has been “getting overwhelmingly positive reviews from seniors.”
Ms. Burrows also wrote in response that she is familiar with a “widely circulated post raising concern that featured a photo of one biopack in a meal kit that had an egg and a bagel featured,” She stated. “Unfortunately it did not include the rest of the food that balances out the meal kit.”
The program has only been approved to run until June 10. The State has asked FEMA for an extension to the program but has not received approval to continue it at this point, according to Ms. Burrows.
Ms. Burrows also stated that due to proposed budget cuts that could affect seniors, she does surmise that the senior meals are at risk of being cut as part of the State’s budget process.
Currently the program, Ms. Burrow stated, feeds a vulnerable population fresh and nutritious meals at no cost, financially supports local struggling businesses, and help stabilize local food supply chains (local farmers who the restaurants source from).
“It (also) provides a daily wellness check and safe interaction for isolated seniors,” Ms. Burrows stated.
By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer