Feeding Rhode Island’s Seniors

Kevin O'Brien and John Fonseca prepare meals for delivery.

URI Dining Services cook Kevin O’Brien, at left, and cook’s helper John Fonseca, prepare shepherd’s pie meals for delivery last Thursday to the East Providence Senior Center.

Photo credit: Nora Lewis

Delivering hot meals to senior centers’ doors is the latest way URI is supporting Rhode Island’s efforts to battle COVID-19.

The outreach effort began last Wednesday with delivery of 500 meals prepared by University of Rhode Island Dining Services’ workers to the Town of Cumberland’s Senior Center. Thursday’s meals traveled to East Providence. This is a coordinated effort involving the University, Rhode Island’s Office of Healthy Aging, and the state’s senior centers. To prepare the meals, URI Dining Services is using food originally intended for its student dining halls.

Gwendolyn Pugh, food service supervisor, said she’s happy to contribute to the initiative. “In this crazy time, I am glad we can do something like this. It feels good because people are struggling,” Pugh said.

Keith Mancini, one of Dining Services’ principal cooks, shared her enthusiasm. “We have great resources and great people here at URI,” Mancini said. “Everybody is so into this, and I am very proud of what we are doing.”

Keeping seniors safer

Pierre St.Germain, director of Dining Services, said his team will produce 500 meals per day, Monday through Friday, and deliver them to senior centers from Cumberland to Westerly through June 1.

Office of Healthy Aging Director Rosamaria Amoros Jones praised URI for its service leadership. “Across the state, senior centers are serving as hubs for their community, providing valuable services to people in need and delivering thousands of meals daily. Through this partnership with URI, we’ve increased the number of nutritious meals distributed by these centers, helping to ensure older adults, who are at higher risk for severe illness, have the supports they need to stay healthy and safe at home during this time of physical distancing.

“We are grateful to URI for their partnership.”

“This is a way to do something altruistic for some of the most vulnerable people in Rhode Island: the elderly and immuno-compromised,” St-Germain said.