Senior Center can still have potluck dinners
Potluck lunches have been fun and delicious since the beginning of time.
Who doesn’t like to sit down with friends, neighbors, family or organizations if it is good food and good company?
Unfortunately, “The times they are a changing,” to quote a song.
Potluck food preparation has become a questionable good or bad situation, and it has to change with the times.
Homemade potluck food made in separate residents’ homes and served to their family or friends they know.
Social potluck food is prepared in a facility that has a health department certification of safety and by certified cooks and served to unknown people groups.
Our country population is growing, preparing food differently and changing diets daily, yet many older people deal with allergies, medicines and new health restrictions. Family and close neighbors can handle those requirements, but restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, even corporations, hospitals and public businesses have concerns and restrictions against public potlucks.
Thus, Burleson Senior Citizens have been all abuzz for two months about a change in the opportunity to continue the potluck tradition in the Burleson Senior Activity Center.
They worried March 28 when the Tarrant County Health Department inspected the Senior Activity Center’s kitchen. The city wanted to bring the kitchen into compliance with the health code and safety code.
The staff spoke with the health inspector via phone and the inspector asked if the center held potlucks. The center has been holding regular potluck lunches for a number of years. The inspector strongly advised that potluck lunches should be avoided due to health risks from unknown food preparation and transportation conditions.
According to Center Director Paula Benjamin, she asked if they could wrap up the month of April because they had three potluck lunches already reserved and make changes for the month of May’s luncheons. The inspector granted that request.
Benjamin loves her senior citizens and doesn’t want any of them to get sick or have health risks.
“We have not had any issues with participants becoming sick,” Benjamin said. “We and staff learned of the concerns, but we all feel that it’s our responsibility to err on the side of caution and pause the potluck luncheon program offering until we have some options.”
She and her supervisor Dave McDowell spoke to all the seniors about the reasons for the potluck changes.
She emphasized that there will still be potluck dinners again, but they are working with the city and neighbors on these concerns until they could solve the best way to keep them safe and well.
“There will no longer be Monday Potluck Lunches,” was posted on the Burleson Senior Center May 2019 Event Calendar handout.
Without clarification of what that statement meant, Richard Livingston and a handful of other members wanted to speak out to the City Council, and voice their opinions to the public.
First, he sent a petition signed by 35 senior members to the City Council.
On May 6 he addressed the Council about the loss of having potluck lunches in their building.
“We seniors. . . We have been having pot luck lunches three Mondays a month for many years,” Livingston said. “Everyone brings a cooked lunch, salad or dessert. . .Why would you shut us down? Please reconsider.” These were his major points against the Tarrant County Health Department’s ruling against public potlucks in the BSC facility.
The City Council and especially Mayor Ken Shetter, were sympathetic with the seniors’ petition,
“Public dinners are woven in our culture. Sharing food is a part of life,” Shetter said.
He turned to the Council and mentioned that “See what we can do about it.”
That is exactly what is happening:
Together the city of burleson worked with the health department and city’s Neighborhood Services staff last week, to produce this working solution:
The potluck lunch will no longer be advertised as a public event. However, the lunch will continue at the Senior Center under the organization of the participants. Anybody who would like to participate in the lunch will be able to register.
Staff may continue to provide a main course dish prepared on-site per the health permit along with plates, napkins and supplies.
Participants will be required to take their dishes home to be washed at their private residence.
Staff is planning on providing separate refrigeration and a separate microwave for use by the public for events like the potluck lunch.
The Senior Center has temporary permits to continue to prepare food until the necessary improvements are made.