As of Jan. 2, the suggested donation for meals at senior centers for patrons 60 and older increased from $2.75 to $3.15, an increase of 14.5 percent.
North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging increased the price because of increases in workers’ compensation, food, and transportation costs. The agency also increased the price for anyone younger than 60 to eat from $4.50 to $5, an 11.1 percent increase.
Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody senior centers are the only ones in Marion County with daily meals.
Managers of the three sites said patrons are taking the increase in stride.
Brenda Moss at Hillsboro didn’t hear any complaints about the increase, because the patrons understand it has been some time since the last increase.
“They still recognize that it’s a valuable, nutritious meal for a reasonable price,” said Ruth Lott, site manager for Peabody.
Nonetheless, the three centers sold more meal tickets in December than most months, similarly to people stocking up on “Forever” stamps before a postage stamp price increase.
“A lot of people bought meal tickets before the price went up,” Marion site manager Janet Bryant said. “I did a brisk business there for a bit.”
A few patrons bought as many as 100 tickets, Bryant said.
Marion County Department on Aging Coordinator Gayla Ratzlaff said one person told her they will limit their visits to the senior center because of the new price. Ratzlaff said she emphasized to that person that the price is a suggested contribution. Nobody 60 or older is turned away if they can’t make the full contribution. The price for people younger than 60 is a set price.
Bryant and Moss said virtually all of the patrons at Marion and Hillsboro pay the full recommended contribution — which goes entirely to the area agency — with some even making an additional donation to the local centers.
Lott doesn’t pay attention to what percentage in Peabody make the full suggested donation, because the centers aren’t allowed to track who pays how much.
The Marion and Hillsboro centers each have about 50 people attend the centers for meals each day, not including Meals on Wheels, and Peabody averages between 30 and 40.