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Senior lunches return to Ceres
• Social time, lunch provided three days a week at Ceres center
Ceres nutrition site
Site manager Diane St. Clair serves up a lunch to south Modesto resident Alfonso Hernandez. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Being in a greater at-risk category, the COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard on senior citizens who felt the effects of social isolation probably more than anyone. Senior nutrition programs were ended to curb the spread of the virus.

But in a sign that life has returned to normal, seniors in Ceres aged 60 and older are invited to have lunch at the newly created “Community Center Café” on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Attendance at the new program, which started on May 9 at the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth Street, has been lagging. Only five showed up Friday and three gentleman showed up on Monday.

“It’s just started and it takes time like anything else to get the word out after COVID shut everything down,” said John Brazil.

South Modesto resident Alfonso Hernandez started attending on Monday, resuming participation in the Ceres senior programs that were interrupted by the pandemic.

“I like talking to other people,” said Hernandez, a Vietnam veteran who relocated to the area from San Jose. “And for me being here it’s not just about the food it’s getting to meet people because I lived by myself. I rent a room.”

The center opens at 11 a.m. for coffee and social time and lunch served from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Seniors are also welcome to play cards and watch TV in the Senior Lounge.

Meals are prepared by the United Samaritans Foundation in Turlock and transported to Ceres.

Javier Avila learned about the program after seeing a flyer at Whitmore Oaks, a senior housing facility on Blaker Road. He has found the experience good to get out of the house and socialize with others.

There is no cost for the meal but a box for the suggested donation of $3 per person is available. No eligible participant will be denied due to inability to pay. Guests under 60 are welcome but must pay the full cost of the meal which is currently $6.

The menu varies from day to day but includes such items like Italian Sausage and salad, chef salad plates, Turkey Burgers, Turkey sandwiches, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and soups.

“The food is really good,” said site manager Diane St. Clair. “It’s a total balance meal and the menus are prepared by registered dieticians.”

Reservations are encouraged at least a day prior to ensure an adequate number of meals will be available. Phone the Senior Information line at (209) 558-8698.

The program is not to be confused with the Senior, Inc., gatherings twice a month over potlucks at the Ceres American Legion Memorial Building.

Ceres Recreation Manager Joey Chavez said response to the program has been slow initially – and to be expected coming out of the pandemic – but he hopes to see 20 to 25 attending regularly.

“We need the seniors back – that’s one of our goals,” said Chavez.

Similar programs are offered at the Hughson Community Center, 2307 Fourth Street, Hughson; and Mancini Hall, 718 Tuolumne Road, south Modesto.

St. Clair said as the program grows she hopes to get volunteers who will help out.