Ojai restaurants serve up meals for seniors, leading statewide rollout of Great Plates program

5 1 THE VINEPhoto by Jayn Walter

The Vine is one of 13 Ojai Valley restaurants providing meals to seniors. The first local meals were delivered Thursday. The Vine staff members and volunteer local chef Jayson Holzworth deliver to HELP of Ojai clients Thursday. They are, from left, Nick Sinclair, Holzworth, Amber Young-Gay and Sam Gay. HELP of Ojai van driver, giving a thumbs up in the driver's seat, is Whitney Nunes, HELP of Ojai Community Assistance Program case manager and director of homeless services.


 Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter

HELP of Ojai, in coordination with the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, launched a "Great Plates" meal-delivery program on Thursday to provide food for seniors and people at high risk for COVID-19.

The program provides locally owned restaurants with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide meals for vulnerable residents in need.

In Ojai it is called the Ojai Restaurant Collective, HELP of Ojai Executive Director Terri Wolfe said. The 13 participating local restaurants are The Vine, Ojai Rotie, Ojai Food Harmonics, Papa Lennon’s, Osteria Monte Grappa, Ojai Beverage Company, Sea Fresh, Ojai Cafe Emporium, Jim and Rob’s, Azu, La Fuente, Ca Marco, and Ojai Harvest Moon.

The program is already serving close to 300 people in Ojai and will continue through at least June 10, since it was recently extended. 

The program lends itself well to Ojai for two reasons. Wolfe said: “They have to make every attempt to use local ingredients, and that works well for us because most all of our restaurants already have that as a general operating procedure. So they were able to kind of easily adapt to the program. The other emphasis in the program was that they be small, independently owned, not chain restaurants. So again, that’s why it lends itself well to Ojai.”


The 200 people who received the meals last week through HELP of Ojai and are now being transitioned to the restaurant delivery. Other people who found out about the program have been added to the delivery list, Wolfe said. “We anticipate that the program is going to grow over even the next 10 days,” Wolfe said. “So they’re either currently already on our program or as soon as they found out about this program, they contacted VCAAA and then all those names came to us also.”

All 13 restaurants have different days they make the meals so that people have a variety of meals every day. HELP of Ojai staff and volunteers go to the restaurants, pick up and deliver the food. 

To qualify, recipients must affirm they cannot prepare their own meals or have difficulty getting meals. People who get Cal-Fresh do not qualify for the Great Plates program, but there are other meal programs available by contacting the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.

Those interested in the program can contact VCAAA at 805-477-7300 or fill out an application on .


This article was updated on May 6 to include information provided at the May 5 Ventura County Board of Supervisors' meeting at which Ojai was held up as the model for the successful and rapid rollout of the government-funded Great Plates program that assists seniors and provides business to local restaurant owners. To read more about the Great Plates program, read near the end of the Ojai Valley News post on the Board of Supervisors' meeting, at which Supervisor Steve Bennett praised the accomplishment in Ojai: 























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