COA Partners with Local Restaurants for Comfort Meal Program
During the pandemic, Council on Aging (COA) has partnered with many area restaurants, including minority and family-owned businesses, to provide special meals to area low-income older adults. Quatman Café, with a location in Mason, is a partner in COA’s award-winning Comfort Meal Program.
When Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued stay-at-home orders in March 2020, COA began hearing from older adults who were afraid to go out for groceries and other necessities. Others found themselves without their regular support network. Many who contacted COA had never before needed help.
“We learned from past emergency situations that food quickly becomes an urgent need for older adults,” said Council on Aging CEO, Suzanne Burke. “We didn’t want supply chain or staffing issues to interfere with our ability to provide meals to older adults, and we knew they might be asked to shelter-in-place for quite a while.”
After receiving additional federal funding via the Ohio Department of Aging and the CARES Act to expand meal service to older adults during the pandemic, COA began looking for ways to adapt traditional meal programs to address not only food insecurity among older adults, but also the quality of life older adults were experiencing during the pandemic.
As the pandemic continued, older adults felt increasingly isolated and forgotten. To help ease the monotony felt by many older adults, COA sought out partnerships with local restaurants to bring comfort meals to older adults – particularly low-income older adults who were isolated in senior apartment buildings across COA’s service area.
With the delivery of a few hundred LaRosa’s meals to older adults impacted by a power outage in April, 2020, COA’s award-winning comfort meal program was born.
Quatman Café, owned by Matt and Angie Imm, joined the program in November 2020 and has provided more than 5,000 meals to date (through April 2021) – all to Warren County older adults.
Being part of the comfort meal program deeply touches the Imms, whose parents and grandparents benefitted from home delivered meals. “It hits home,” Imm said, “because we all have parents. It’s nice to know that as we’re aging, someone is thinking about the older population.”
Quatman Café’s COVID-19 comfort meal includes a deli sandwich, cookie and a side of homemade potato or macaroni salad.
In 1966, Imm’s father, Albert opened Quatman Café in Norwood with the help of a high school friend. Over the next 41 years, Quatman Café became a Cincinnati icon, known for being a friendly, family-oriented restaurant serving quality, fresh food.
Imm bought the business from his father in 2007 and opened a second location in Mason in 2009.
Today, Quatman Café is still a family-owned and operated business – from cooking to scheduling to administration. The Imm’s children, Grace and Ethan, also help in the restaurant when they can.
Partnering with local restaurants had the added benefit of helping businesses weather the economic challenges created by the pandemic. “We lost a significant amount of indoor seating,” Imm said. “We saw our numbers drop pretty drastically.”
Imm acknowledged that a lot of people are going through tough times as a result of the pandemic – especially older adults. “I think we’ll all get through it as a community and I think things like this – like providing a comfort meal for somebody – will actually let people know that we’re thinking about them.”
COA’s comfort meal program is a community partnership. The meals are paid for by COA via funding from a variety of sources, including the Ohio Department of Aging, CARES Act funds, grants, sponsorships and donations. In addition to Quatman Café, the following restaurants have prepared meals for the program: LaRosa’s Pizzeria, Frisch’s, Taste of Belgium, C&M BBQ Grille, Chef Anthony Jordan, La Soupe, Neal’s Famous BBQ and Beaugard’s Southern Bar B Que. COA service providers, including Warren County Community Services, collect meals from each restaurant and deliver them to senior apartment buildings across COA’s service area. Service coordinators, staff and volunteers at each building then distribute the meals to residents. From April–December 2020, more than 58,000 comfort meals were delivered to the doors of older adults in need.
“It’s rewarding to see the impact these meals are having on older adults in our community,” said Burke. “I have been impressed with the level of teamwork, flexibility and commitment demonstrated by everyone involved in this effort – from the restaurants doing the cooking, and our providers delivering the meals, all the way down to the coordinators at each building where meals are delivered. This is work that makes you feel good. We all need that right now.”
Click here to read more about the Comfort Meal Program in COA’s 2020 Impact Report.