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Senior Meals Closes in Veblen, Declines in Northeast SD; Fewer Hungry Old Folks?

I’m not sure whether to read the closing of the Veblen Senior Meals program and the decline in participation in the program in neighboring towns as bad news or good news:

With fewer than 10 senior citizens per day using the Senior Meals program in Veblen, it just isn’t economically feasible for it to continue and the program will no longer be available after June 12.

…Presently, Veblen’s site is the only one slated to be closed, but Pesek said, there are other communities that have troublesome numbers.

Those communities — Mobridge, Redfield, Webster, Sisseton and Groton — used to serve 40 people a day, and now they’re serving 15, he said.

In Aberdeen, he said, participation has dropped to about 200 meals per day, which is down from 300 about five years ago.

Region-wide, [Region IV Senior Nutrition project director Rick] Pesek said the decline is more pronounced.

“My projections five years ago would have been 300,000 (meals per year),” he said. “We’re down to serving 225,000 meals for the year” [Elisa Sand, “Senior Meals End in Veblen,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.05.23].

Curious: all the demography tells us we have a growing elderly population. We might speculate that old folks are leaving the small towns to live closer to provisions and hospitals, but Aberdeen is seeing the same decline in Senior Meals participation. Are older folks turning away from this assistance (Senior Meals gets 47% of its funding from the feds, the rest from local donations and governments)? Are old folks better maintaining the income and mobility necessary to make their own meals? Are they getting nutrition in other settings, like assisted living?

The handful of Veblen elders still using Senior Meals can drive to the Farmers Inn Cafe in Claire City nine miles east. Program director Pesek says towns where Senior Meals participation is declining can partner with local cafes to keep it going.

In Veblen, we’re kinda stuck,” he said. “There’s a cafe, but nobody has suggested that as a choice.”

Pesek said local cafes have to meet the nutrition standards set by the Senior Meals program [Sand, 2015.05.23].

One cafe in Veblen—last I recall, that would be the Bull Pen, run by dairy magnate Richard Millner. I could editorialize, but I haven’t eaten there, either.


  1. Porter Lansing 2015-05-23 08:23

    Delivering meals to seniors has proven to be very popular with our elderly. They get a little conversation, a little face time in their own environment and much needed nutrition and attention.

  2. Nick Nemec 2015-05-23 08:47

    The meals program in Highmore is a lifesaver. They serve meals in the senior center and deliver to shut ins or those who just want to eat at home. My mother has a meal delivered 5 days a week, the cost is a very reasonable $4/day. Without this service she might not be able to live in her home, at the minimum it would require at least another hour a day out of my schedule. In the long run meals on wheels saves the system money verses earlier nursing home care.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-23 10:00

    Porter, Sand’s article mentioned that important socialization aspect of the program as well. I wonder: is that socialization not appealing to old folks in Veblen and the neighborhood, or are they simply scratching that itch through other outlets?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-23 10:01

    Indeed, Nick, that kind of value makes me wonder why participation would be dropping. I would think we’ve got more folks like your mom who can benefit, not fewer. Any ideas?

  5. Jenny 2015-05-23 10:19

    Good question, Cory. Why are the old folks not signing up? Are they just dyin’ off? Meals on Wheels is an excellent program that gives the proper nourishment to elderly folks who otherwise may not get it. Use it or lose the program, SD. Take advantage of it.
    I think Grudzy is on Meals on Wheels isn’t he? I’m sure he enjoys getting a nice hot meal daily.

  6. Nick Nemec 2015-05-23 12:04

    Even the shut ins who have meals delivered benefit from the socialization. The volunteer visits for a few moments and at least insures the elderly person is OK. It might be the only visitor for the whole day. I think the programs need to do a little marketing touting the benefits of the program.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2015-05-23 13:14

    Hopefully one of those fine Christian organizations will be able to pick up the slack for those 10 senior citizens in Veblen.

    After all, conservative politicians profess that churches can deliver welfare and charity needs better than government.

  8. Joan Brown 2015-05-23 17:44

    I am on the Meals on Wheels program in Sioux Falls. Most of the time the meals are good, but every now and then there are some that are almost unedible. A lot of the time when we have roast beef it is so tough it is hard to cut, let alone chew. The other day, we had bar-b-que ribs, that were cut into 1/2 to one inch pieces and a lot of the pieces had chunks of bone in them that couldn’t be seen until you were trying to chew it, These pieces of bone were about 1/2 inch long. Then there is the occasional day that I just plain know I won’t like the meal so I cancel it for that day. Then there are things on the menu that have strange names that make me laugh. A couple times there has been “orange carrots.” I imagine they are supposed to have a slightly different flavor, but to me they taste like carrots.

  9. Porter Lansing 2015-05-23 17:57

    @Cory …. Since FoxNews came to Dakota many elderly may believe that accepting a meal is akin to communism and it’s making the national debt go out of control. They’d rather feed their false sense of individualism than take care of themselves.

  10. grudznick 2015-05-23 20:01

    I am sorry this handout program is ending. I for one wanted to use it more but they don’t bring breakfasts around in Rapid City and those elderly people who bring the food don’t want to listen to speech and such about my ideas.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2015-05-23 20:27

    I don’t blame them for not wanting to listen to speeches.

  12. jerry 2015-05-24 11:09

    @Porter Lansing, From what I have seen in small towns, you may be closer than you think with your observation. Fox News, along with Rush Limpback and the rest of the talkers, have done more harm to our elderly than dread disease like cancer. They are morally vile and just plain evil, the devils work in other words.

  13. Porter Lansing 2015-05-24 11:35

    @Jerry. I noticed this morning that Mr. Powers from Brookings and the “Blog of the Chronically Contrary” [DakotaWarCollege] has taken on as a sponsor another invalid news source, NEWSMAX. I remember being on the farm for weeks at a time with very little social interaction other than the afternoon news, right before milking. To be influenced to direction and conduct by FOXNEWS is not beneficial to South Dakota’s seniors. For them to feel like they’re “hurting America” by getting a free meal and some face time with a concerned helper is repulsive, manipulative and just sad. PS… FOxNews paradigm of using pretty young blonds in short skirts reading the opinions is quite transparent as to who they’re targeting … older angry white males aka the base of the Republican party.

  14. JeniW 2015-05-24 13:26

    What you are looking at is the changes made to the RSVP program. The priorities of the RSVP program was changed to serve more populated areas with more, for lack of better terminology, hard core poverty.

    Congress had made changes in the program about a year or so. Where there was not much chance of RSVP being refunded as it had been, the RSVP program in Sioux Falls closed down.

    Although RSVP in Sioux Falls not involved in the meals for seniors, many of the meal programs in the smaller communities were/are.

    For some communities like Redfield, seniors would/do receive a free meal for volunteering at the school or at a day care program. I am not sure if your stats reflect that.

    Meals for seniors is definitely a plus for those who receive them, but with the changes made by congress, I would not expect any changes.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-25 09:03

    Joan, maybe the program will surprise us and mix up the veggie list with some heirloom purple carrots!

    When you get a bad meal, Joan, does the program make it easy to give feedback?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-25 09:05

    Porter, Jerry, you make an interesting point about possible media influence. Would it be in DSS/Senior Meals interest to spend a little money on a survey of its customers and folks who are leaving the program to find out why they left? Maybe it’s Fox News, maybe it’s tough roast beef, but the agency should be interested in finding out, counteracting any bad press, fixing any quality issues, and maintaining service.

    JeniW, would those RSVP changes in smaller towns be driving people away from the program?

  17. JeniW 2015-05-25 17:41

    Cory, I am not sure that I can accurately answer your question, but based on my limited experience, whenever the word “free meal” is removed, participation tends to drop. For some individuals they cannot go for hours without food, so will quit for that reason.

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