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Nonprofit's mission is serving up nutrition and connection for SLO County seniors

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Rachel Showalter
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Darlene McMillin (left) and friends gathered for lunch at the Anderson Hotel in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Meals That Connect is San Luis Obispo County's senior nutrition program, and serves free lunches to over 500 county residents every day. 

Specifically prepared with all the necessary vitamins and food groups to provide adequate nutrition for those 60 years and older, some of these meals are home-delivered. But the majority are served in ten different community locations throughout the county. These dining rooms provide the opportunity for interaction and connection.

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Credit Rachel Showalter
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Brain McAdam prepares a dish for one of the daily lunches.

Brian McAdam is one of the program's cooks. When he first started working with Meals That Connect, it was just a job. But now it's more, McAdam said, as he has seen how much the program helps people.

“We’re helping to keep people in their homes longer, keep people independent longer. In the congregate dining halls, we’re providing people with a social outlet that wouldn’t exist otherwise. So it’s not even just the lunch. It’s a daily wellness check. It’s a daily human contact for somebody that might otherwise just be shut-in alone,” McAdam said.

Robert Gracey, another program employee, delivers the lunches. He said he has a passion for working with seniors and finds his job personally rewarding.

“They look forward to this. They’re very excited when you pull up with food and they’re waiting. It’s really a neat feeling to experience it,” Gracey said.

According to the non-profit agency, about 14 percent of seniors in San Luis Obispo County are living with food insecurity. The organization states that some seniors are forced to sacrifice meals in order to pay for medical care or support their animal companions.

Darlene McMillin is one of the seniors involved in the program and, living alone, she said it can be costly to buy food. McMillin said that she is grateful to Meals That Connect for offering her convenience and cost savings.

“I love it because I’m sick of cooking, tired of cooking, worn out from cooking. And I don’t have a car so I can’t go shopping. And then living alone, you can waste an awful lot of food,” McMillin said.

Initially passed in 1965, the federal Older Americans Act funds state and local programs that provide services to seniors like Meals That Connect.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.