Peconic Recreation Center to offer hot lunch for seniors

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | A pair of seniors share a meal at Peconic Recreation Center.

By this fall, Southold Town seniors will have one more place to enjoy the camaraderie and hot food provided by the town’s senior nutrition program.

Thanks to a state grant, the senior center plans to begin a pilot program offering hot lunch at the Peconic Recreation Center. The town will expand the program there if demand is high.

Launched in 1974 at a rented space in Greenport’s St. Agnes R.C. Church, the senior nutrition program moved to Mattituck in 1996. That gave the program its own home base, but made it more difficult for seniors from Greenport and farther east to take advantage of the service, said town human services director Karen McLaughlin.

In 2009, Ms. McLaughlin applied for a $26,000 grant from the state Office for the Aging to buy a new stove and refrigerator plus chairs and a canopy for the Mattituck center. She learned last summer that Southold was one of about 25 towns in the state that would receive the money.

Last week, the Southold Town Board authorized the purchase of the new equipment.

Ms. McLaughlin said her staff plans to move several of the existing appliances from Mattituck to Peconic to provide lunch during two town-sponsored senior meetings, which take place every other Wednesday and Thursday. Many seniors who attend those meetings would normally have lunch at the Mattituck center and go to Peconic to meet with their groups. There they could buy coffee, but had to bring their own lunch.

“They say, ‘Oh, no, you’re having beef and gravy? That’s at the same time as my senior meeting,’ ” said Ms. McLaughlin.

Lillian Wagner-Dykhuis, 93, of Mattituck packs her own bag lunch every time she goes to her Southold senior meeting. But she wouldn’t miss joining her longtime friends in Peconic for the world.

“I tell everyone in Florida that if it weren’t for the senior center and my neighbor, I wouldn’t come north anymore,” said Ms. Wagner-Dykhuis, who returned to her Mattituck home from Florida on Wednesday and was at the senior center for lunch the very next day. “You have to get out,” she said.

She added that food at the center in Mattituck was far better than what the senior centers in Florida had served for the past six months.

Themis Fieros of Mattituck, who was eating lunch with Ms. Wagner-Dykhuis at the center on Friday, agreed.

“A nutritionist comes and makes up the menu with the cook,” she said. “It’s good food.”

The only thing either woman said they could complain about was that the portions at the Mattituck luncheons are too large.

Ms. McLaughlin said that if the program takes off in Peconic, the senior center may consider making transportation available to the Peconic center. Currently, seniors are taken from all over town to Mattituck for lunch, but they could be taken to Peconic as well, she said.

She hopes that offering food at the Peconic senior meetings will help boost the ranks of this active group of adults, who take great pride in their social organizations.

In addition to the benefit of offering nutritious meals, the town has another incentive to provide more food for seniors.

“The more meals we provide, the more funding we secure,” said Ms. McLaughlin. “That’s a win-win for everyone.”

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