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Home meal program introduces containers

Kay Thayn, who works in the Price senior citizens center kitchen, holds an example of the new food trays that will be tested for 30 days in the county's Meals On Wheels program. To demonstrate the difference between containers, senior centers director Debbie Kobe holds the old kind of tray that will probably be phased out.

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

The trays holding food delivered to homebound people around the county may not seem like a major thing to worry about.

But Carbon County's senior citizen centers director Debbie Kobe explains that the trays are more important that people may think.

"Cost is always a factor, but so is the use," said Kobe concerning a proposed change to new containers for delivery. "These new containers that we are going to do a 30 day trial on this month could the answer to a few problems we have encountered in the past with the old kind."

Every year, the two senior citizen centers in the county serve 95,000 meals, with 42,000 of the total number going out on trucks to clients.

The old trays cost 26.7 cents each, while the new ones will only cost 23 cents.

The new trays are made of paper board, which is biodegradable.

The trays also come with a sealing machine that allows a clear shrink wrap material to be placed over the food so handlers and the clients can view the meals .

The old trays and cups had cardboard or styrofoam lids.

"This will be particularly important with the cups," stated Kobe. "We put fruit, salads and desserts in those and sometimes there are multiple things on the trucks that are put into those containers. With the styrofoam lids we have had to label each one so things would get mixed up and someone would get two salads instead of one salad and one dessert. With the clear sealing material we will be able to see what is in the container and no labeling time will be needed."

"These do cost less and are environmentally friendly, but for our clients there is a more important reason we will use these if the tests show they are viable," continued the director. "That is so that our clients can use them without fear of problems."

What kind of problems could be associated with a food container?

That answer lies in composition. The old trays have metal in them which can't be used in microwave ovens, one of the favorite ways home bound people heat them up if they don't eat the food initially. The problem has occurred several times and the new trays would work just fine in the microwaves.

"I know there has been some concern because with these new containers because they are made of paper board," said Kobe. "Some worry about putting them in the oven or in toaster ovens which a lot of our seniors have. But these trays can stand temperatures up to 400 degrees. They will be safe to reheat.

Meals on Wheels also only operates on weekdays, so weekend food is delivered on Fridays frozen in the trays. With the metal trays the food had to be removed from the tray and put on a plate to be heated in the microwave. Now, with the new trays they can be placed directly in the microwave for defrosting and heating.




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