When I was a child, I remember hearing comments about older people being so destitute that they were forced to eat cat or dog food. They simply could not afford human food. I remember being confused—not understanding how anyone could not have enough food. My Father was in the Marine Corps and we did not have very much money, but we always had human food on the dinner table.
About that time, the national Senior Nutrition Program was being developed.
This March, SeniorCare Inc. joins the Administration for Community Living and senior nutrition service providers across the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national Senior Nutrition Program.
Since 1972, the Senior Nutrition Program has supported nutrition services for older adults. Funded by the Older Americans Act, local senior nutrition programs serve as hubs for older adults (60 and older) to access nutritious meals and other vital services that strengthen social connections and promote health and well-being.
Food insecurity is a very real issue in our community, and support for senior nutrition is more important than ever. Each year in the U.S., up to half of adults age 65 and older are at risk of malnutrition, and more than 10 million face hunger. In communities throughout the U.S. – including our own – older adults sometimes lack access to the high-quality, nutritious food they need to remain healthy and independent. It is not uncommon for an elder to be forced to make the decision to buy healthy food or pay for their medications or pay their utility bills. When faced with the choice of heat in January or healthy food, it’s understandable that heat gets chosen—leaving a choice of ramen or some other filling, but otherwise unhealthy food option.
As part of the Senior Nutrition Program network, SeniorCare helps older adults in our community by promoting healthy eating, decreasing social isolation, and improving health. SeniorCare’s program, which includes home delivered meals (Meals on Wheels), several community dining locations throughout a nine-community region, and Nutrition Counseling, also provides connections to home and community-based services that can support independence and overall well-being. SeniorCare serves lunch to more than 700 elders each day through the home-delivered meals program. Annually, this means 182,000 meals served throughout SeniorCare’s service area of Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester by the Sea, Rockport, Topsfield, and Wenham. These figures represent a 25% increase in nutrition services since the start of the pandemic. SeniorCare’s Meals on Wheels program continued and the community dining program was adapted to a “Grab & Go” format to provide nutritious meals to elders during the entire shut-down of 2020-2022.
In addition to SeniorCare’s nutrition programs, the North Shore has several food pantries, including Beverly Bootstraps (978-927-1561, www.beverlybootstraps.org), The Open Door (978-283-6776, www.foodpantry.org), and several smaller programs. These agencies provide prepared meals, healthy groceries, SNAP (food stamp) application assistance, and a myriad of other programs helpful to individuals and families facing food insecurity. As with SeniorCare’s nutrition program, the North Shore food pantries have experienced a significant increase in requests for assistance since March 2020, and they have risen admirably to the challenge.
For more information about the Nutrition Program and the broad range of services offered by SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.
“Prior to my work at the Administration for Community Living, I managed local nutrition programs. I know first-hand the difference these programs make in the lives of older adults every single day. For decades, our programs have offered nutritious meals and socialization opportunities, all while promoting overall health and well-being for seniors across the country. I am so proud of the many accomplishments of these programs during the last 50 years, and at ACL, we look forward to a future fueled by innovation, education, and, of course, nutrition.” – Keri Lipperini, Director, Office of Nutrition and Health Promotion Programs, Administration for Community Living.