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City steps in to help center when enough food isn't sent

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FARMINGTON — The Bonnie Dallas Senior Center ran out of food to serve its clients on Jan. 29. Farmington officials vow they'll use supplemental city funds from now on to make sure the food supply won't run out again.

Nearly 80 seniors were turned away from one of the senior center’s more popular meals — pork loin.

Adult Services Director Jack Lowery said others arrived at the center and were informed by the people who were turned away that there was no food.

The senior center again faced a food shortage days later, but no one went hungry that time. The center offered an alternative meal of macaroni and cheese after it ran out of roast turkey breast.

"They weren't turned away, we were prepared for that to happen," Lowery said.

Farmington Parks, Recreation at Cultural Affairs Director Shaña Reeves said the city  has allocated $10,000 to cover any shortages that might occur.

"We're all here for the same reason, from the office staff to the kitchen staff," said Food Services Director Mary Anne Ulibarri. "We are here to provide a service to our seniors. We care for them."

Senior center receives less food than requested

Lowery said these shortages occurred when the senior center received a less food from Northwest New Mexico Seniors Inc. than it had requested.

Lowery explained that the center sends Northwest New Mexico Seniors Inc. a meal projection report on a monthly basis. This report projects how many meals it will need each day to serve the meals to seniors. These meals are served at the senior center as well as delivered to home-bound seniors.

The center had projected a need to serve 350 seniors on Tuesday. Instead, it received enough pork loin to serve 273 servings. Lowery said the senior center prioritizes the home-bound seniors and delivers about 80 meals, which meant fewer than 200 people could eat at the senior center. On average, 220 people eat daily at the senior center.

In an email Lowery sent Jan. 28 to PRCA staff, he states that the senior center would serve appropriate portion sizes and no second or extra food would be provided. In addition, he said no one younger than 60 years old would be served until all the seniors who are 60 years old or older were served.

On Jan. 24, Northwest New Mexico Seniors sent an email to discuss the food order. The email states that it was reducing the number of cases of pork loin from five to three. The email explains that the meat is lean and that the three cases should provide 768 three-ounce portions for two meals.

Northwest New Mexico Seniors says Bonnie Dallas will receive scale to measure portions

Northwest New Mexico Seniors Finance Director Sandra Yoakum said the center should have had enough food to serve the seniors. She alleged the senior center was not following portion guidelines. Yoakum said Bonnie Dallas Senior Center will be receiving a scale to ensure seniors receive the proper serving size of the main dish.

Yoakum said Bonnie Dallas Senior Center is the only one in the county that has reported running out of food for seniors.

The serving size for pork loin is three ounces, according to documents provided by the senior center.

Lowery said the senior center has special utensils to measure out the correct serving size of meat.

Northwest New Mexico Seniors faces funding cuts

The shortages came as Northwest New Mexico Seniors Inc. has faced challenges with funding cuts. The organization uses state and federal money to reimburse purchases of food for the meals at five senior centers in this county. This money is distributed by the New Mexico Aging & Long Term Service Division through third-party organizations like Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging.

In early January, the board of directors sent the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department a letter expressing concern after learning that it would not be receiving additional funds for "meal services performed in good faith from July 1, 2018 to October 16, 2018."

The letter further highlighted concerns that funding this year will be about a third of last year's funding. At the same time, demand for the meals has increased. The letter states the number of seniors served in San Juan County increased 5 percent last year.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

 

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