At any age, nutrition plays a vital role in our health and wellness. As an older adult, your health should be a priority in your everyday life to make sure your body is satisfied and filled with good nutrients to build a strong heart, strong bones, and prevent illness. There are many nutrition programs that can assist seniors specifically in finding what diet your body needs.
Importance of Proper Nutrition
Malnutrition can become dangerous to the health of older adults. Risk factors that indicate malnutrition can range from physical consequences such as blurred vision and poor appetite to mental declines such as stress, unhappiness, and cognitive impairment. These consequences can be solved by implementing a new, healthier diet that nourishes the body. Although the term “diet” may come with a negative connotation, changing small parts of your diet to include more vegetables and high-nutrient foods is an easy way to transition to a healthier lifestyle. If obtaining nutritious food is a struggle due to financial costs, there are many government programs that are implemented to help older adults specifically. The types of nutrition programs can vary greatly and can help you financially with the costs of nutritious foods at your local grocery store or community programs.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is one of the largest organizations in the nation that assist older adults by providing meals either delivered to their home or through a community program. This program delivers more than 2 million meals each year to seniors over the age of 60 who are not in a financial state to afford all their meals. Additionally, many of these older adults have disabilities that may prevent them from going shopping for groceries or cooking – so having meals cooked and delivered to them is one of the easiest ways for them to avoid malnutrition. To apply for Meals on Wheels, contact your local Meals on Wheels provider to learn more.
Seniors’ Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
Some of the most expensive foods are organically-grown fruits and vegetables – but these foods can provide plenty of nutrients and benefits to older adults. The Seniors’ Farmers Market Nutrition Program allows low-income seniors to be able to obtain locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even honey. This program operates in 52 areas nationally which include all U.S. states, U.S. territories, and federally recognized Indian Tribal Organizations. The SFMNP provides service to older adults ages 60 years old and over who qualify as low-income. To learn more about how to be a part of SFMNP, contact your local state agency or visit their website.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides boxes of nutritious, USDA-approved foods to help the diet and health of low-income older adults ages 60 years old and older. This service is available in all states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and federally recognized Indian Territory Organizations. The foods available through this program include all non-perishable items like pasta, canned meat, cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, and more. This is a great option if you qualify as low-income in the U.S. since you will get a variety of foods, free of cost, and can create any food combinations of your liking with the food provided.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Unlike other governmental senior food assistance programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides low-income individuals with benefits to purchase food at local grocery stores. Other programs provide already picked food or meals to seniors, but through SNAP, individuals of any age who qualify as low-income are able to purchase their own food at their local grocery store based on their own preferences. SNAP only provides the monthly financial benefits to purchase nutritional foods, therefore the food comes at no cost to the individual.
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
To qualify for the Child and Adult Care Food Program as an older adult, you must be enrolled in a participating adult daycare or senior living center. Through CACFP, the government provides reimbursements for meals and snacks given to seniors above the age of 60 years or adults who live with disabilities and are members of an adult daycare center. The CACFP strives for all seniors to be adequately and nutritionally fed by providing funds for foods at these locations. Make sure to contact your adult daycare or a potential qualifying care center to see if they are eligible for CACFP.
Congregate Nutrition Services
The government provides many congregate nutrition services for seniors above the age of 60 who are in senior centers, adult daycares, churches, or other community settings. Through this service, in some cases, the caregivers, spouses, or other individuals with disabilities that are related to the senior may also be eligible for these services. Not only does this service provide seniors with healthy and nutritious food, but it also allows settings for socialization and to meet people which can increase mental health and happiness amongst older adults.
Home-Delivered Nutrition Services
This governmental program delivers meals and related nutrition services to older adults who are ages 60 and over who cannot leave their homes due to age, illness, or any other reason for which they are homebound. This program also extends its offerings to any spouse or caregiver related to the senior in some cases. This program is especially beneficial for older adults who are homebound because it allows for social interactions and check-ins at the time of delivery.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program
The Emergency Food Assistance Program is not a food or meal delivery program designed for seniors but is made for all low-income individuals to get free access to food through food pantries or soup kitchens. This program works through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and distributes food to every state, which then distributes the food to local food banks. If you or a loved one are ever in need of food, this is a great option since there are places nationwide that are run through this program.
Staying Committed to the Cause
In addition to these federal nutrition programs, there are also many state options that help older individuals gain access to free meals and food. Nutrition is a vital step for older adults, and any individual, to remain healthy and prevent illness. Don’t neglect your body if you start showing symptoms of malnutrition – take advantage of these programs as soon as possible.