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Tucson community lunch program gives seniors hot meals and friendships

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Posted at 6:55 AM, Apr 16, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Seniors in Tucson are finding companionship and nutritious meals through a program offered across Tucson.

Pima Council on Aging's Community Lunch Program, operating 13 locations across Southern Arizona, serves meals five days a week. Mark Clark, CEO of PCOA, emphasized the program's dual purpose saying, "have a lunch and make a friend."

Clark mentioned that for over 80% of attendees this lunch is their main hot meal of the day.

For seniors 60 and up, the meals served to them have to meet certain criteria. “The meals are required to meet 33% of minimum nutritional daily guidelines,” said Clark.

Beyond nutrition, the program addresses social isolation and loneliness. “We’ve learned even more about the issue which we sort of knew about: the issue of social isolation and loneliness. There’s some research that says loneliness has the same kind of negative health impacts of smoking about 50 or 40 cigarettes a day,” said Clark.

Participants like Esther Ames appreciate the program's broader benefits. While some come primarily for the hot lunch, others engage in activities like Mexican train, crafts, or exercise programs.

“It’s wonderful for folks to get together and just to see who comes in and out. Some people come once a week or even once once a month for a certain meal that they really like and others come in every day,” said Ames.

Each month, the Community Food Program serves over 5,300 meals to participants. More details can be found on Pima Council on Aging’s website.