Nicanor Morales, left, and Flor Aguilar, right, prepare meals for California's Great Plates Program at Angelina’s Bakery in Seaside, on Saturday, Feb. 20. The temporary program delivers meals to older adults who meet eligibility criteria and according to county officials, it is designed to help seniors shelter in place and minimize trips outside of the home.

The idea last year was two-fold: The government would pay restaurants, serving as a bit of an economic stimulus for an industry in need, to cook and deliver meals to seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and have been instructed to stay home and avoid unnecessary trips, including to places like restaurants and grocery stores. 

On Feb. 6, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and California Office of Emergency Services announced a one-month extension of the program on the even of its expiration. Now, with the program again set to end on March 8, FEMA has extended funding through April 7. 

The extension comes at a critical time in the fight against the pandemic, as vaccinations roll out to the elderly but the community remains far from fully vaccinated. 

Diana Jimenez, deputy director of Aging and Adult Services in the Monterey County Department of Social Services, was happy to get the news from Cal OES and FEMA on Saturday, March 6. 

"Seniors 60 and over have been disproportionately impacted by Covid, so aside from economic stimulus to the businesses, the other part of this is to help vulnerable seniors stay home and stay healthy and shelter-in-place," Jimenez says. 

"What stands out to me is the high percentage of seniors who have lost their lives to Covid. The extension of this program will help vulnerable seniors. We know there's no silver bullet, but little strategies here and there like this one make a difference."

Monterey County and the city of Seaside each run a Great Plates Delivered program, supporting nine restaurants combined to serve roughly 350 seniors. 

Under the program, local government pays restaurants $66 a day to prepare and deliver three meals a day that meet nutritional guidelines. (It's up to restaurants to cost out ingredients and labor within that amount.) FEMA reimburses about 75 percent of the cost, the state covers 18 percent, and local jurisdictions pay just 6.25 percent. 

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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