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Photo by Lisa Carolin. Tracey Dalton prepares a meal in the Chelsea Senior Center kitchen.

By Lisa Carolin

The Washington Street Education Center Kitchen is a place where big meals are frequently prepared.

Every weekday, anywhere from dozens to hundreds of meals are the responsibility of Tracey Dalton. She works with the Chelsea Senior Center staff preparing all the food under the Chelsea School District catering contract with the county for senior meals.

Dalton prepares daily meals for the Chelsea Senior Center and Meals on Wheels. She also prepares monthly menus, orders supplies weekly, and prepares monthly reports and expense reports.

“I enjoy cooking for the people,” said Dalton, who is also responsible for the daily cleaning.

The menu is reviewed and approved by a registered dietician and all meals are required to be well-balanced and meet USDA guidelines for senior citizens, which includes protein, vegetable, starch, fruit and milk.

Dalton is always on the move, staying several steps ahead of one cooking assignment and allowing extra time for others. She takes her responsibilities, including estimating huge portions of food, in stride.

“I have a five-week cycle menu I work with, and the amount is determined by how many have signed up to receive the meals,” said Dalton. “I have mostly received positive feedback. They like the meals.”

She says the most popular meals, often evident by the number of seniors present at a luncheon, are pork chops, meatloaf, and chicken drumsticks. The same hot entree is served daily for both the Senior Cafe and for Meals on Wheels clients.

Meals on Wheels participants can choose to receive a frozen meal for Saturday and Sunday. They need to have and be able to safely use an oven or microwave to heat it up.

Dalton lives in Grass Lake. She is married and has two daughters and six grandchildren.

What makes her so fond of her job?

“I like working here because we are like a family,” she said.

Photo by Lisa Carolin. Tracey Dalton in the kitchen.

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