Senior Lunch Program During COVID-19 Crisis

April 1, 2020

A Home Away From Home

On a normal day, TEL HI’s senior room is bustling with seniors going about their daily routine –some sip on their morning cup of coffee, some watch the morning news, and others chat with their peers, simply enjoying each other’s company. What brings this group of seniors together are hot lunches served by TEL HI’s senior lunch program. Recently, however, this morning ritual has suddenly come to a halt due to the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Nowadays, the senior room is quite different. Instead of the friendly chatter that you once heard from the seniors as they ate lunch, the room is eerily empty and quiet. All the tables and chairs are neatly folded and tucked away in the corner of the room and all that stands left is a maroon utility cart used for seniors to safely pick up their food at a safe distance from staff for them to take back home in quarantine.

A senior program attendee waiting to pick her hot lunch to-go

Since March 12, senior lunch program manager, Koletti Leha, has worked with staff to develop a new set of safety protocols like preparing foods with proper gear e.g. masks, gloves, etc., opening doors with elbows when possible, and leaving meals-to-go on a cart at the entryway of the kitchen to maintain sufficient social distancing for them and arriving seniors. She is also in the process of switching to frozen meals so that seniors can pack multiple meals at once and thus, only need to leave their homes as little as once a week. Still, although the seniors have shown much gratitude for being able to receive their meals, many are deeply saddened by missing out on many of the distinctive qualities that made the senior room feel like a home away from home.

Senior Program Manager, Koletti Leha, preparing hot to-go lunches for our seniors

For seniors like Mary Wong and Sean Aubitz, the senior lunch program is more than just lunchtime but it is a time for them to be with their TEL HI family. Aside from the financial relief and nutritional benefits these meals provide, the program offers a chance at developing deep relationships with the staff and fellow seniors. Mary secretly admitted that she wasn’t the biggest fan of the meals themselves but came for the profound sense of belonging she felt at the center. More specifically, she was “[comforted] to know that someone cares and supports [her]” and called the program “a labor of love.” For Sean, it’s a safe space for him to be his authentic self and develop genuine friendships. Many of these seniors often live alone and have no family nearby and so, this program has become a second home for many. Not only that, TEL HI has become their second family.

Senior Lunch Program Member, Mary Wong


Senior Lunch Program Member, Sean Aubitz

Unfortunately, despite these invaluable experiences, the program has no fund dedicated to it. This means that given all the uncertainty around funding these days and the loss of our biggest fundraiser of the year (Taste of TEL HI), the senior lunch program’s quality of service may be at stake. With this in mind, we are asking our community for donations so that we can continue to offer the same quality of service to our seniors. As shown, your donations aren’t just used to buy meals – they’re used to foster a deep sense of family and community that isn’t replicable anywhere else. Donate below if you can!




Thank you, TEL HI community, for your support during these uncertain times. We can get through this and together, we are TEL HI STRONG.

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