Senior Nutrition Program turns 50

Senior Nutrition Program turns 50
File photo

By Barbara Ravenell

Fifty years ago, the space shuttle program was officially launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China in 1972. That same year the U.S. Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment and Intel invented the single-chip microprocessor. Each of these events are historic.

Add to that list of momentous events, the launch of the national Senior Nutrition Program, which is funded by the Older Americans Act and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Older Americans Act nutrition programs include the Congregate Meal Program and the Home Delivered Meal Program.

The Senior Nutrition Program is a program put in place to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition, increase social interaction, decrease social isolation and promote the health and well-being of older adults. The program targets people who are ages 60 and older, as well as their spouses. Hot lunch meals are provided typically Monday through Friday in community group settings, such as senior centers, churches, schools, adult day care centers and senior housing facilities.

Each Senior Nutrition Program meal provides one third of the daily nutrition requirements for adults as determined by the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Some of the services the Senior Nutrition Program provides participants include nutrition education, nutrition screening, nutrition assessment and one-on-one counseling with a registered dietitian.

This year, the Administration for Community Living’s theme for the Senior Nutrition Program’s 50th anniversary is “Celebrate, Innovate, Educate.”

Edwin Walker, Administration for Community Living’s deputy assistant secretary for aging, made the following statement to commemorate the event:

“For 50 years, the Senior Nutrition Program has helped older adults access healthy meals, nutrition education, social opportunities, and other invaluable supports in communities nationwide. This year marks a milestone for both the Older Americans Act, which authorizes the program, and for community living, which is made ever more achievable by community-based resources like the Senior Nutrition Program.”

The Senior Nutrition Programs are truly “more than food;” for older adults they serve nutritious meals, promote social interaction, provide links to local resources and offer opportunities to volunteer. In 2018, the Older Americans Act Congregate Nutrition Program provided services for approximately 1.5 million adults and served 71 million meals.

To learn more about local community nutrition programs contact the Alexandria Division of Aging and Adult Services at 703-746-5999.

The writer is a supervisory nutritionist for the City of Alexandria’s Division of Aging & Adult Services.