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Campus Cafe proves a success

In February, we embarked on a pilot project to provide an alternative meal site for seniors in Douglas County. The Telegram ran a story on the new program, which was dubbed "Campus Cafe." Campus Cafe, as a pilot, was part of our nutrition services that Senior Connections provides throughout Douglas County. Historically, we provide around 35,000 meals annually through our "Meals on Wheels" program, and another 13,000 or so meals through our seven lunch-time congregate dining sites around Douglas County.

Campus Cafe was unique in a number of ways — for the first time, we were providing a suppertime meal, five days per week, and the Cafe was operated at the UW-Superior Yellowjacket Union, Union Cafe. Diners were presented with a huge number of choices (multiple entrees, salad bar, dessert bar, etc.). Notably, we were able to provide a space for seniors to not only receive nutritious meals, but also allow for intergenerational interaction between our clients, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior student population. Over the course of the 60 days that Campus Cafe operated, 4,568 meals were provided to 830 individual participants.

We were told of, and our staff witnessed, many extremely positive interactions between our diners and the students during pilot run. Many students were seen making a beeline for a senior wearing a Veteran cap, stopping them and thanking them for their service. Our seniors were extremely appreciative of the opportunity, and very complimentary of the Chartwells staff at the Cafe, as well as students that went out of their way to do something as assist an 89-year-old woman scoop out some hard ice cream. A number of our seniors commented that they were able to socialize with friends they hadn't seen in years. I had one gentleman grab me as I walked by to tell me that not too long before Campus Cafe kicked off his blood sugar levels were dangerously high. After starting to come to Campus Cafe regularly, he started eating a salad each night, and maybe a piece of meat or chicken and avoided the carbs. He said recently, he had his blood sugar rechecked, and it was below 100.

We at Senior Connections can't express enough how thankful we are to Chartwells, including Jeff Spangenberg, Roshon Hittara, Brian Sullivan, and their staff, as they were our partners from then beginning in this venture. Our seniors really enjoyed having your staff there to assist them as well. I must note, that while I would like to take full credit for the idea of Campus Cafe I cannot. My predecessor, Rhoda Nagorski, along with Jeff Spangenberg, came up with the idea in 2015. Rhoda applied for a grant that were weren't successful in getting. Late last year I asked Jeff about the possibility of trying the program and he was all for it.

Campus Cafe was funded in party by our Federal Title III nutrition funds under the Older Americans Act, County funds that we receive, and the contributions of our nightly diners.

Lastly, I am pleased to announce that it appears as though Campus Cafe will return in the fall when school starts up again. While there will be some minor changes, due to increased student attendance in the fall, etc., such as hours for Campus Cafe serving from 4-5 p.m. (only have to be in the door by 5), we will also be testing a weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-11 a.m. We will publish more information as the fall nears on our Facebook page, website, newsletter and in the newspaper.

Thank you again, to the community, Chartwells, UW-Superior, and our diners.