Celebrating 50 Years of the Senior Nutrition Program
This March, the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Senior Nutrition Program with other organizations across the country! Nutrition is a vital component of our health and well-being, especially as we age. This program has been providing meals for older adults throughout the United States since 1972 through Older Americans Act funding. At the local level, the Senior Nutrition Program covers a nine-county region (Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Osceola, and Newaygo) through partnerships with Commissions on Aging and Meals on Wheels.
Congregate and home delivered meals are truly more than a meal for older adults. We never want a senior to wonder where their next meal might come from and these meals provide peace of mind in addition to nutrition. The Senior Nutrition Program goes one step further in relieving some of the caregiver burden as they don’t have to shop or make daily meals for their loved one. Congregate meal sites provide a place for older adults to socialize and build connections while receiving healthy, well-rounded meal options. Home delivered meals can help with social isolation as the meal delivery staff provide a vital point of contact. Dropping off a meal becomes a daily check-in and oftentimes a relationship is built from these regular visits. The Senior Nutrition Program makes a difference of the lives of older adults and we are thankful to our nutrition partners who play a part in making this positive impact. The theme for this year’s 50th-anniversary celebration is Celebrate. Innovate. Educate. Join us as we take a quick look at what this means for us at AAAWM!
- Celebrate. In 2021 alone over 900,000 meals were provided in our nine-county region with many thanks to our 8 partner agencies. We celebrate 50 years of the senior nutrition program and know that it has enabled older adults to live in their own homes and communities as they age.
- Innovate. These nutrition programs are always thinking outside of the box and during the pandemic, this creativity was on full display. They continued to serve older adults, adding new clients as seniors were higher risk and wanting to stay safe. Congregate meal sites became grab-and-go drive-thrus and home delivered meals found new ways to check in with clients while dropping food off safely. Other innovations outside of the pandemic have included multiple meal options for client choice, and meals that are frozen and can be warmed up at a later time.
- Educate. A large goal for our agency is to make sure older adults know about these meal resources. If you want to support the Senior Nutrition Program overall you can advocate for its continuation with legislators. Meals programs are always looking for volunteers to help support the preparation and deliveries. You can also donate to provide more meals for older adults who may not be able to afford the suggested donation.
Additionally, this celebration coincides with National Nutrition Month, which takes on a new importance for older adults. As you age, your body's needs change. Your metabolism tends to slow down, so consuming more nutrient-dense foods is very helpful to maintain and improve your health. Nutrient-dense foods are typically vegetables, fruit, and lean protein. Eating well reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. This means it is more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value, like dairy for calcium, mushrooms, and eggs for vitamin D, and meat and dairy for vitamin B12. You can find further tips at https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month.
If you’d like to learn more about the nutrition programs in your area, you can contact our Information and Assistance team at (616) 456-5664.