Senior center to increase meals by 50 cents

Visalia Senior Center had not increased the cost of meals since 2015 as food costs continue to raise

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – The cost of food, those who prepare the food and those who serve it has gone up over the last three years. Beginning this year, Visalia seniors will start to feel those increases, but only a little.

At its Feb. 18 meeting, the Visalia City Council increased the cost of lunches at the Visalia Senior Center from $4 to $6. While that may sound like a big jump for seniors on a fixed income, local seniors will only pay an additional 50 cents for their meal after a $1.50 discount is applied for seniors living in the city limits making the price $4.50. Meals will be the full price of $6 for seniors visiting from out of the city and anyone under the age of 55. An additional 50-cent charge will be applied for anyone taking food home. The new pricing will begin on March 16, 2020. 

The price for senior lunches was last increased in the fall of 2015, when meals went from $3.50 to $4 for those 55 years and older and from $4.50 to $5 for guests under the age of 55 years old and for take-out meals. 

Laurissa Roggencamp, recreation manager for the city of Visalia, said the Senior Lunch Program is based on the City Council approved Parks and Recreation Fee Policy, so the costs of the program are partially offset by both a tax subsidy to account for the Community Benefit (50%) and participant fees (50%) to account for the Individual Benefit. 

“At the current meal price, the Senior Lunch Program would become more dependent on the tax subsidy from the City,” Roggencamp said. “We’re hoping this increase will help balance that.”

Last year, the city subsidized 55% of the cost of the meals as seniors paid a total of $34,000 of the $74,000 to provide the meals. The expenditures included the cost of the contractor to provide the meals, hourly part-time staff wages, flatware, silverware and napkins, annual health department permits, kitchen staff training and food handler permits, as well as minor kitchen repairs and services required so that the kitchen meets health department standards.

Vice Mayor Steve Nelsen said he doesn’t like raising fees on seniors but said everything has gone up since the last increase more than three years ago.

“I’m always concerned when we increase fees, especially to our seniors,” Nelsen said. “But the cost of food is going up and I think this is justified and I will support it.”

The council approved the nominal increase 3-0 as Mayor Bob Link and City Councilmember Greg Collins were absent.

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