Volume 81, Number 4 | June 23 - 29, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Seniors are hooked on their cook

By Muneeza Iqbal

Seniors at Greenwich House’s Judith White Senior Center are still in the dark about the future of their meals. As the new fiscal year starting July 1 looms — as does Greenwich House’s acquisition of The Caring Community — the seniors are getting more nervous about their foods’ fate. Will homemade meals be replaced by catered food?

The seniors heard rumors about the change in dining options, and when they questioned the administration, their fears weren’t assuaged and no further information was given. Roy Leavitt, Greenwich House’s executive director, said that it’s an issue of financial concern, but a meeting to discuss the issue hasn’t been held yet.

There are only two permanent staff members at Greenwich House’s senior center, the cook and the serving assistant. Since these two both work part time with no benefits, the seniors don’t understand how replacing them with catering services would be cheaper. They say the cook, Nancy, has to work a second job just to make ends meet.

Nancy was asked by the settlement house’s administration not to talk to the press.

“Our kitchen staff is like our family. They love us, they know what we like and don’t like in our food,” said Jessica Blue, a senior who attends the Greenwich House program. “I have dementia, diabetes and obesity in my family, and Nancy cares about these things!”

The seniors are scared that catered food would be extremely unhealthy and not prepared to their individual needs.

Judith Karpilow, who attends classes at The Caring Community’s Washington Square North center, as well as at the Judith White Center, prefers to eat at the latter. She said that the bread at The Caring Community is wrapped in cellophane and served with margarine, neither which she believes can be good for one’s health. The Caring Community has its food catered.

Many seniors at the Judith White Center wonder why Greenwich House is acquiring The Caring Community’s three senior centers if Greenwich House itself needs to make financial cutbacks at the seniors’ expense.

Meanwhile, at The Caring Community, teachers haven’t been paid since March. Three teachers who had failed to submit their invoices before March have remained unpaid from an even earlier date. Given the nonprofit’s financial situation, which is causing the takeover by Greenwich House, this is perhaps not surprising.

Arthur Makar, The Caring Community’s executive director, said that he recently signed a contract with the city which will go toward paying some of these overdue salaries. However, he said, he can’t control when the money from the city comes in.

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