School district takes pride in assisting with Meals on Wheels

By: Nick Mordowanec, | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 19, 2017

FRASER — Many people might not know, but Fraser Public Schools has played a big role in Macomb County’s Meals on Wheels program.

Actually, it’s a task that has been undertaken for nearly four decades.

Meals on Wheels, which is designed to deliver meals to senior citizens with mental or physical ailments, is distributed through Macomb Community Action. It’s intended to help people ages 60 years and older who are homebound and unable to prepare their own meals.

 Fraser Public Schools cook Alice Czanstke prepares beef teriyaki and mixed vegetables for seniors as part of the Macomb County Meals on Wheels program.

Fraser Public Schools cook Alice Czanstke prepares beef teriyaki and mixed vegetables for seniors as part of the Macomb County Meals on Wheels program.

Photo provided by Fraser Public Schools

The Fraser school district is responsible for about 660 meals per day in relation to the county program. It’s a program that has been associated with Fraser schools for 38 years.

Carrie Morfino, director of food and nutrition services at Fraser Public Schools, oversees all food service operations for the district. That includes all elementary, middle school, high school, daycare and Head Start programs — as well as Meals on Wheels.

She plans menus for all levels, aside from the county-orchestrated menus for Meals on Wheels; she oversees the ordering of products and equipment, along with managing the employees; she’s responsible for monitoring program budgets; and she makes sure the district complies with all food safety, government and state regulations.

“The district orders the food and products needed for the program, then prepares and packages meals to go either to the Meals on Wheels program or the congregate sites — where seniors eat at senior center locations,” Morfino said. “Each weekday, we deliver meals to nine senior center locations throughout the county, and have four Meals on Wheels mobile trucks that pick up meals from us at our high school.”

Food is ordered from distributors Sysco, Great Lakes Bakery and Gordon Food Service.

Four dedicated employees work beneath Morfino: three who prepare, cook and package the meals, and another who delivers the meals to the various locations. The county provides volunteers and staff at the different locations, as well as four drivers.

One of the school district’s employees is Alice Czanstke, who has cooked as part of the program for the past 34 years. She works with assistants Michelle Drozdowski and Kris Miller, as well as driver Clayton Rhodes.

“I hope that the county and Fraser Public Schools will continue this program forever,” Czanstke said. “It makes me feel so good to know that what I cook helps out those seniors who can no longer cook, that they get that hot meal every day. (County drivers) tell us the seniors they deliver to are so happy to see them come with that meal. (For) most, that is the only meal they eat for that day.

“We put our hearts and souls into our jobs. Fraser Public Schools is an amazing district to work for.”

Currently, the district and the county are in the middle of a three-year contract, which was renewed for a new cycle last October.

Fraser Public Schools Superintendent David Richards said the relationship between the district and the county is a point of pride.

“Our dedicated team works hard each day to prepare the meals and help the seniors in our community and surrounding areas,” Richards said. “The role we play in making sure senior citizens in the county have access to a nutritious meal is part of what I consider the ‘Fraser difference.’”

In addition to enjoying a fruitful partnership, the district community feels gratitude that it has had the opportunity to positively affect lives for all these years.

“We provide meals to multiple generations through our school programs and our seniors programs,” Morfino said. “We believe this is what builds a strong, thriving community.”