Meals On Wheels Loses Its Deal with Modesto Training Center

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MODESTO -- Meals on Wheels in Stanislaus County is looking for a new sponsor after Howard Learning Center decided to not renew its contract with the county.

Howard Training Center, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing services to adults with developmental disabilities, has 246 clients, 30 of which work in the kitchen.  For 11 years, the center has been contracted by Stanislaus County to prepare and deliver meals for Meals on Wheels. Food is distributed to 13 sites plus 450 home deliveries, totaling over 20,000 meals a month.

"It wasn’t a decision that was made lightly. We understand the ramifications," said Carla Strong, executive director for the center.

Now, new legislation has forced the center to switch their focus away from Meals on Wheels, which provides five meals a week for senior citizens.

"We have to get more focused on teaching them skills than we do actual production," Strong told FOX40. "That’s been the problem with the senior meals contract is you’re talking 20,000 meals a month. It takes all day."

Strong said the decision to end the contract has been over three years in the making. The pressure to raise over $150,000 a year in required funds for the Meals on Wheels contract will allow the center, which has been around for 65 years, to provide other services to help their clients prepare for the workforce.

"What we're working on now and what we're headed toward are more the soft skills. So how to put together a resume, how to do an interview, the computer skills. They all have cell phones but they haven’t necessarily been on a computer," Strong said.

The 30 workers that make homemade and frozen foods in the kitchen will still be busy with an additional 20,000 meals a month for other contracts and catering the center provides. For now, the center’s focus is on marketing individuals with disabilities, many who possess a love for working, to potential employers.

"We had one young man that was going to go to Disneyland. He told his mom he couldn’t go because they were busy putting together meals," Strong said. "They have a school contract and they had to feed the students. The family went to Disneyland and he stayed here. Dedicated, definitely."

Strong says she is confident Stanislaus County will find someone to fill the void for Meals on Wheels. As for the center, she says they are in the process of starting a capital campaign to raise money for renovations.

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