The culinary staff at the Harmony Hall Retirement Community in Columbia is planning to expand its food service by offering deliveries of hot meals for a fee to seniors in the Columbia area.
Harmony Hall plans to begin the home-dining service in February or March, for under $15 for two meals, lunch and dinner.
"There's a large community of over-65 people who are in their own homes and, because of various physical problems, may need to rely on family members to cook for them," said Anthony Breda, director of culinary services and executive chef at Harmony Hall. "Our home-dining service is a way to empower seniors and to give them more self-reliance."
The retirement community is a private, 11-year-old subsidiary of Ellicott City-based Maryland Health Enterprises. Harmony Hall provides housing, meals, transportation, recreation and an emergency medical staff for about 250 residents.
The home-dining service will provide lunch and a hot dinner up to seven days a week, depending on the client's request. Both meals will be delivered at the same time, in disposable containers.
Lunch sandwiches, such as tuna salad served on a croissant or shrimp salad on pita bread, can be refrigerated for the next day. Other lunch selections, such as crab quiche or cream of carrot soup, are available for those who can operate a microwave oven.
Full-course dinners will arrive hot at the door, having been reheated in a micro wave-equipped van. They will include entrees such as filet mignon, poached salmon and pork tenderloin, an appetizer, salad, vegetables, rolls, dessert and coffee.
"People won't have to do any cooking, not even rewarming," Mr. Breda said.
In addition to providing convenience and sophisticated menus, the chef said, the meals are the result of careful nutritional planning.
"When a person is in a controlled environment, it's especially important that he or she have a balanced meal," he said.
Weekly menus will be set by the clients, who will have a daily choice of three dinner entrees. In an initial interview with each client, Mr. Breda will determine the client's likes and dislikes.
"We don't want to be rigid," Mr. Breda said.
The chef acknowledges that other in-home dining alternatives exist for senior citizens.
For example, Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, a private, nonprofit organization provides two meals, one hot and one cold, five days a week for clients who pay on a sliding scale, according to their financial ability.
"We are offering a product that gives more variety, and our service offers seven-day delivery instead of five," Mr. Breda said. "In some cases, we may be able to fill in for some members of a family who have been providing for a senior. Our main priority is to help them."
The home-dining service is likely to get a good response from the elderly community, said Ruth Masters, 65, co-leader of Insighters, a support group for seniors with poor vision that meets at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.
"The thought of having a gourmet meal and not having to cook it ourselves is appealing, especially if we don't have to do the dishes," she said.
But she added that many of members of her group are quite independent, manage their own cooking on a daily basis and still would want to go out for meals from time to time.
Information on the Harmony Hall home-dining service is available by calling Mr. Breda at 531-6000.