Business

Encore Cafe aims to offer nutritious meals to Marion seniors

Volunteer Margaret Morey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talks to diners during lunch at the Encore Cafe at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. Lunch is served at the library to clients on Mondays and Fridays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, lunch is served at Lowe Park. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Volunteer Margaret Morey of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, talks to diners during lunch at the Encore Cafe at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Iowa, on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. Lunch is served at the library to clients on Mondays and Fridays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, lunch is served at Lowe Park. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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MARION — A partnership between the Heritage Area Agency on Aging, Marion Public Library and Marion Parks and Recreation Department, Encore Cafe — which opened May 9 — makes nutritious meals and wellness programs accessible and affordable for older adults.

“The concept is to provide choice menus with meals catered by Marion Hy-Vee,” said Jill Sindt, interim co-director of the Heritage Agency on Aging. “We ask for a contribution based on ability to pay, with a suggested contribution of $5. If someone is younger than 60, we ask for $8.”

“The menus meet dietary guidelines and are approved by a dietitian,” added Tim Getty, regional nutrition coordinator for the agency. “They are diabetic-friendly, low carb and low sugar. A heck of a lot of nutritional planning goes into them.”

Open for lunch at the library on Mondays and Fridays and at Marion’s Lowe Park on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the cafe provides a choice of menu items that range from turkey and mashed potatoes to tacos and Chinese food, depending on the day.

A full salad bar also is offered at the Lowe Park location.

The park and library were chosen because the city identified those locations as being places where older adults tend to congregate during the day.

Educational and health-related programming is presented before, during or after the meals. Seniors may participate in a chronic disease management class before lunch, enjoy an accordion performance during the meal or attend a chef demonstration after lunch to learn how to make healthy meals for one.

Encore Cafe is the result of a grant from the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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“Participation in congregate and home-delivered meals has been declining nationally over the last 10 years,” Sindt said. “We were one of four agencies selected nationally to introduce innovative ideas to increase participation.”

Heritage Area Agency’s approach — to modernize the congregate meal experience with a caterer and menu choices — has been so successful that the Administration for Community Living plans to use it as a best practice in a replication guide.

“There is a stigma attached to congregate meals,” Sindt said. “But even the name ‘Encore Cafe’ has changed attitudes about the group meal setting.”

The cafe has grown quickly in its first three months. With an original target of 35 diners for each meal, the cafe has served up to 55 diners per day.

“We’ve had new participants every single day,” Getty said. “We’ve had as many as 10 new people in a day.”

Sindt said one sign of the cafe’s success is an increase in participation by a “younger crowd” — those in their 60s and early 70s.

“We want to feed the Mick Jaggers,” she said, referring to the septuagenarian rock star.

l Know a business that has been in operation for less than a year that would make for an interesting “Ground Floor”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a Glance

l Business: Encore Cafe

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l Community partners: Heritage Area Agency on Aging, Marion Public Library, Marion Parks and Recreation Department

l Contact: Tim Getty, Regional Nutrition Coordinator, Heritage Area Agency on Aging

l Phone: (319) 398-7682

l Address: 4500 North 10th St., Marion (Lowe Park location), or 1095 Sixth Ave., Marion (Marion Public Library location)

l Reservations: (319) 377-3412; www.tinyurl.com/y9hh4b8y — requested at least one day in advance.

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