Where seniors can get a free, hot meal

It's the holidays, and here's how one organization is helping seniors in need.

They say there's no "free lunch" anymore.

But, did you know that Volunteers of America sponsors 29 meal sites around the metro area that serve free or low cost hot meals for seniors most every day of the week? In fact, the Nutrition Services Division of Volunteers of America has been providing meals since 1973 at sites that currently are located as far north as Brighton and as far south at Castle Rock.

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In addition to wonderful, hot food, the dining center program also provides access to community resources and positive social interaction to people who are 60 years old or older.

The program serves seniors who reside in a seven county area, including Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin and Jefferson counties.

In addition to being delicious, the meals are nutritious and prepared fresh.

"We carefully plan our meals for both taste and nutrition, and get input from our meal site participants," says Richard Anderson, the associate division director for Aging and Nutrition Services. "We prepared 189,491 hot meals last year, with the majority of the cooking taking place between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m."

In recent years, Anderson says he and his staff have worked hard to upgrade menu offerings and recipes.

They are very meticulous about ingredients, and in fact, they have a registered dietician on site and a policy book that gives them strict details on preparation, right down to how many milligrams of sodium a recipe contains, so all meals are nutritionally compliant with program guidelines.

Anderson says once the meals are cooked and properly heated, they are packaged and loaded in an assembly line process and then delivered to the sites. He adds there are 515 volunteers helping to staff the dining centers.

"The volunteers put more than 50,000 hours into the program," Anderson told 9News, saying they are vital to the effort.

Eligibility for dining center meals is stipulated in Title III of the Older Americans Act, and The Older Coloradans Act, with DRCOG providing oversight. To qualify as a participant, an individual must meet one of the following criteria:

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-60 years of age or older

-an eligible participants spouse (any age)

-Individual living with a disability at a housing facility that is primarily occupied by older adults and at which a dining center is located

-A volunteer of the Dining Center (volunteers must be 18-years of age or older)

For seniors interested in receiving a ride and a meal at a particular site, it generally is best that they contact the specific meal site to make the meal reservation, and the meal site can then let them know what their transportation options are. All the meals sites and their phone numbers are listing below.

The Senior's Resource Center in Denver also provides transportation to many of the sites, and those needing a lift can also call them for information. Their phone number is 303-235-6972.

You can find a full list of all of the meal locations here: http://bit.ly/2AeRl3M