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Semcac serves up 40 years of dining

Around 30 area seniors attend the daily Senior Dining meals each day at Jordan Tower II. The rotating menu of fresh-cooked food is not only nutritious, but gives seniors an opportunity to mingle and socialize, coordinators said. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

Senior Dining and Meals on Wheels celebrate 40 years of service in Minnesota this year. Through it all, Semcac has been dishing up hot food to seniors in Red Wing and across the region.

Short for Southeastern Minnesota Citizen’s Action Council, Semcac was one of the first groups in the state to establish a senior nutrition program, funded through a 1973 grant from the Older American’s Act.

By the end of the first year, the organization was serving 1,000 meals a week across 16 communities. Now it serves more than 260,000 meals a year at 57 area dining sites, according to Semcac’s 2012 annual report.

“For some, it’s the only hot meal they get,” said Jeff Reames, site manager for Semcac’s Red Wing Senior Dining site at Jordan Tower II.

Reames and his staff will host a Meal of Celebration 11:30 a.m. Oct. 29 in recognition of Senior Dining’s 40th anniversary. The roast beef and mashed potatoes meal will feature appearances by former site managers and past Semcac personnel.

Reames, a trained chef and retired serviceman who once ran a military dining facility, started as site manager about a month ago. He said he is pleased with the quality of the food served, as well as the impact it has on local seniors.

Each meal provides 700-900 calories, satisfying roughly a third of the recommended daily nutritional requirements, according to Semcac.

Several diners said they like the taste, too.

“The food is very good,” said Lorraine Nelson of Red Wing, who comes to the dining site two or three times a week with her cousin-in-law, Earl Nelson.

“You can’t beat it,” she said.

Beyond the health benefits of a balanced meal, Reames said the dining site gives seniors a crucial meeting place to get out of their homes and socialize.

Reames said he notices the same groups of seniors chatting over their meals each day.

Semcac in Red Wing typically cooks 30 to 40 meals per service, Reames said, with around 18 additional meals boxed up and sent off to a Cannon Falls dining site.

Some days draw larger attendance, especially when the menu includes the crowd-favorite liver and onions, he added.

But Reames said he would like to see more of Red Wing’s senior community attend the meals each week; they are open to everyone, not just residents of Jordan Towers.

The suggested donation price is $3.50 for a meal for people 60 and over, and $6 for anyone else. But no one will be turned away for an inability to pay, Reames said.

People wishing to attend a Semcac dining service must first register by noon the day before to ensure there are enough meals available.

For more information or to register call 651-388-9875.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875