San Mateo County rolled out its branch of the state’s Great Plates Delivered initiative last week, connecting qualifying seniors to hot meals from local restaurants.

Lisa Mancini, director of the county’s Office of Aging and Adult Services, which is running the program, said those efforts have already facilitated meal deliveries to hundreds of county residents. Of the more than 500 eligible seniors, Mancini said around two dozen live on the Coastside.

And, so far, she said a handful of Coastside restaurants are planning to participate as the program accelerates this week.

The goal of the program, which delivers three hot meals per day from local restaurants to qualifying adults 65 or older and those 60-64 who are at high risk for COVID-19, is to battle food insecurity for older adults. Mancini said many

recipients are seniors who have been sheltering in place since March and are afraid to leave home to get food or go grocery shopping. Some, she said, are unable to cook for themselves.

“Our older adults are truly our heroes,” Mancini said. “They were the first to shelter in place and are continuing to shelter today.”

Senior Coastsiders Executive Director Sandra Winters said the eligibility requirements — which exclude anyone already receiving meals through federal programs like Meals on Wheels and CalFresh — mean that most of the clients the local senior center normally serves likely won’t qualify.

But Winters said her staff is working to help eligible seniors outside of their programs apply and is hoping to advise restaurants on mandated nutrition and delivery standards. Mancini explained that the program is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and to qualify for a reimbursement for the cost of the meals,

restaurants must meet FEMA standards. She said the county is one of just six in the state that has been chosen to participate.

Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau CEO Krystlyn Giedt said she’s been reaching out to restaurants to let them know about the program and how to apply. She said the quick rollout has created some confusion, so she is working to get the right information out to local restaurants.

But Giedt praised the county for being willing to fund the program. According to Mancini, the county is shouldering 6.52 percent of the cost, which has been extended to June 10, and expects FEMA to refund the remaining costs.

“Helping both (restaurants and seniors) is noble on so many levels, but not every city and county can take that risk,” Giedt said.

This version corrects the phone number for the program, which is included in the accompanying box.

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