PictureKaren Olson, owner of Juice Girl, whose restaurant participates in the Great Plates Program.

Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis in Marin, there have been no shortage of innovative programs to both feed frontlines workers and the elderly while also generating some much-needed revenue for local restaurants. Since March, that has included Feed the Frontlines MarinBOL’s Pay It Forward, as well as SeedReleaf and Play Marin’s meals for to address heightened food insecurity in Marin City.

Now comes word that the Marin County Board of Supervisors has responded to demand and revived the Great Plates Delivered Program, which provides free meals to qualified older adults who are sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic and ineligible for other nutrition programs and generates revenue for participating restaurants and caterers. The revival spans from September 10 to October 9 and includes the same 717 recipients and   many of the same food vendors. 

Mill Valley’s Juice Girl, owned by Karen Olson, at left, is among the food vendors included in the program, as is Iron Springs, Marin Gourmet, Vin Antico, Spinnaker, Boudin
Nourish, Parkside Café and Marinitas, among others. Great Plates participants are assigned their restaurant selection by the County. People can only order from the restaurant assigned to them, and the program isn’t able to accommodate switching or special dietary preferences.


The County of Marin first participated in the pilot program between May 18 and June 10, recruiting 28 local restaurants and catering companies to provide up to three meals per day to 717 older adults who were at high risk for the disease and met the program criteria. The program cost the county $538,000, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expected to reimburse the county for all but $33,625. The agency picks up 75 percent of the cost, while the state of California picks up approximately 19 percent of the cost.

“The pilot was well received by residents and the participating vendors alike,” says Karu Beuerman, the county’s director of social services. “Some older adults reported that it was the best they had eaten in years and that the program helped them come back to life during these difficult times. Restaurants commented that it was a gratifying and moving experience to see people in need enjoying the food they prepared.”

Participants who qualify receive three free restaurant meals a day, five days per week. Qualifying applicants must be at least 65 years of age or 60-64 and at high-risk as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, including those who are medically documented as COVID-19 positive, COVID-19 exposed, or living with an underlying health condition; Individuals living alone or with one other program-eligible adult; Individuals not receiving assistance from other state or federal nutrition assistance programs; Individuals earning no more than 600% of the federal poverty limit, which is $74,940 or $101,460 for a household of two; Individuals who can affirm an inability to prepare or obtain meals. 


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