Wednesday, March 13, 2024

March is National Nutrition Month hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This year’s theme is “Beyond the Table”, which addresses the farm-to-fork aspect of nutrition, from food production and distribution to navigating grocery stores and food markets, home food safety, the many ways we eat and more. March is also the month the Administration for Community Living (ACL) celebrates the anniversary of senior nutrition programs and the many accomplishments of the national and local programs. The 2024 theme is “Connection in Every Bite,” which highlights the relationship between food and social connection.

During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. It is a powerful reminder that the act of coming together over a meal fosters a sense of belonging, contributes to the health of participants, and creates an opportunity for connection in every bite.

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. Funded by the Older Americans Act, the Administration for Community Living provides grants to states that support a network of local programs delivering nutrition services to older adults. These programs promote healthy eating, decrease social isolation, and support better health overall.

Since last March, AgeGuide, in collaboration with funded partners, opened eight restaurant community dining sites. This innovative restaurant program operates on a donation-based model and allows older adults, their spouses, and people with disabilities to enjoy meals at partner restaurants. According to program evaluations, restaurant program participants enjoy the menu choice and the flexibility the program has to offer. Many older adults express gratitude for this restaurant dining opportunity because they feel connected to their community and to each other. As a result of these openings, the number of community dining participants has grown by 75%! In addition, funded partners have seen a tremendous increase in donations which allowed the program to expand.

Quotes from Restaurant Program Participants:

“I love this program. I can afford to treat myself and go out. I eat more balanced meals even at home now. I try to make sure I eat more protein and fruit with my meals. My friend also joined and improved his eating habits as well. This makes me worry less about him.”

“The program enables me to go out once a week and eat something I didn’t prepare. It often gives me a better diet because of the menu offered.”

“I believe this is a great program for seniors. It is an opportunity for us to get out and socialize when we otherwise couldn’t due to our budget.”

Another way nutrition services connect older adults to the community is through the home delivered meal program. Be sure to Listen to The Age Guide Podcast: Perspectives on the Aging Journey in March to get a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the job of home delivered meal program volunteers. Hear the joys of delivering meals to homebound older adults and the impact of the relationships that develop along the way.

Authored by AgeGuide nutrition staff, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics registered dietitian nutritionists, and Administration for Community Living


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