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  • Last modified 25 days ago (June 26, 2019)

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Seniors again without a cook

Staff writer

For the third time this year, Marion Senior Center is without a cook.

For unknown reasons, temporary cook CJ Vanderzanden quit Tuesday.

Senior center president Sue Clough said everyone was disappointed.

“We appreciated having him,” she said. “He did a good job. We’re sorry it didn’t work out.”

Lucille Bitner, who had worked as a cook for more than two years, quit suddenly for health reasons in April. Vanderzanden was filling in temporarily after a newly hired cook quit after two days.

The North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging is responsible for filling the position.

The agency sent out a statement Tuesday that said, in part, “We are pleased to work with senior center leaders and wonderful volunteers to provide Friendship Meals to older Kansans and caregivers. We are aware of a recent transition at Marion Senior Center and are unable to comment on personnel matters.”

The agency will advertise the position again.

Senior center president Sue Clough said Vanderzanden didn’t say anything about quitting.

“All we can do is talk with someone who might do it,” she said. “I have talked with two people who said they will think about it.”

Until a new cook is found, meals on wheels recipients will get frozen meals every day, and diners will have to go elsewhere.

Bitner said the job as cook was rewarding. A substitute cook was available whenever she took a day off.

In addition to preparing food, Bitner kept records. The first thing every morning, she checked temperatures in the main freezer and refrigerator and recorded them. She kept lists on each refrigerator and freezer of their contents, checking off the items as they were used. This helped her know when to order replacements. If something went wrong and food spoiled, she recorded food that was thrown out.

Canned goods and commodities were recorded as she received them. Leftovers were labeled and dated, including the date three days later, by which they had to be used. She took an inventory of the food on hand every six months.

As an employee of North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, the hours for which she was paid depended on the number of meals she prepared. She relied on volunteers to help her.

She made sure everything was done by 10:45 a.m. for meals-on-wheels deliveries.

Her biggest challenge was to make sure meat was ready on time. For example, a 20-pound roast had to be taken out of the freezer and placed in the oven on low heat to cook all day. Frozen rolls were placed in pans, covered with plastic wrap, raised in a warm place, and baked.

If serving cake, she made it early enough to cool and frost it. She also heated the steam table, where hot food was placed until serving time. Meat had to be kept at 165 degrees and served in uniform amounts.

If “Jell-O” salad or “Jell-O” cake was on the menu, it was prepared the previous day to allow time for setting up.

She also prepared coolers for meals on wheels, one for hot food, and one for food and drinks kept cool with ice packs.

After meals-on-wheels were picked up, tables were prepared.

Cleanup after the meal included sweeping and mopping the floor and taking out trash.

“I had some really good assistants,” she said. “I enjoyed working there.”

Last modified June 26, 2019

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