Elder Care is able to offer hot meals to its senior clients again thanks to a new partnership with Sodexo, which provides dining services for Dickinson State University.

"We were providing the meals with Mom's Meals, which is a refrigerator meal," Elder Care Executive Director Colleen Rodakowski said. "Hawk's Point is one of our Cafe 60 sites, and that's where people who went to congregate meals in town ate them."

When Elder Care's cook passed away in December, the nonprofit agency became unable to provide hot meals, only frozen, through the summer.

"The current staff were able to keep the meal program going, but we did not get applications for cooks," Rodakowski said. "We weren't able to fill the position, and we just couldn't keep it going anymore."

Elder Care decided to subcontract the services, and reached out to DSU.

"It's less expensive for Sodexo to prepare our meals than it is for us, because they're already preparing meals here, the product's coming in," Rodakowski said.

Sodexo was more than ready to help out.

"We've been looking for an opportunity to help Dickinson and the greater community in the area in any way we can for a little over a year now," Sodexo General Manager Aaron Zummer said.

Sodexo prepared its first meals for Elder Care on Monday.

"People were genuinely excited to see the new program, and we're excited to try it," Zummer said. "We're trying to provide higher quality meals for our elder community, and for them to receive that is incredible."

On Tuesday, Sodexo and Elder Care prepared herb-crusted roast beef, ginger glazed carrots, roasted cauliflower, and fresh fruit.

Elder Care helps seniors to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible.

"Many times, for seniors, the hardest job they have when they're in their home is cooking that meal," Rodakowski said. "They've got to get the groceries, cook, eat, clean up, and next time is lunch, then supper. We provide that hot meal."

The program serves 80 to 100 meals each day, and roughly 40 frozen extra meals for weekend meals.

"Sodexo will be packaging frozen meals throughout the week," Rodakowski said. "Those frozen meals will go out on Friday, or it might be a different day if there's a holiday and we're closed. We offer those frozen meals to people who are homebound."

A hot meal makes all the difference, Rodakowski said.

"Would you rather have a cold sandwich for every meal, or would you like to have a nice roast beef dinner or a chicken dinner?" she asked.

The new partnership with Sodexo could allow Elder Care to grow its hot meals program.

"With our current staff, if we got up to 90 home-delivered meals, it was tough," Rodakowski said. "If somebody is homebound or a senior is recovering from surgery, they can call us and we can get them set up."

Elder Care is seeking people to deliver meals, an ongoing challenge for the nonprofit, and even considering reaching out to DSU's student population for help.

"Our office has been delivering meals for quite a while, since before spring," Rodakowski said. "And many times, students want to give back to the community. Anybody in the community can volunteer."

For more information, contact Elder Care at (701) 456-1818.