Hunger affects millions of Americans. We do not often think about older Americans being affected by hunger, much less those seniors living in our communities. The truth is senior citizens are at risk of hunger just like any other age group. The barriers to those who are affected include mobility issues, financial insufficiency, isolation, and lack of proper nutrition information.
“For some seniors, this is the only meal for the day, but we don’t tell,” a client who receives hot meals at one of our 14 senior center nutrition sites once shared with me.
Senior Services offers nutrition programs – Meals on Wheels and weekday hot luncheon meals in congregate settings. Both programs are important in the fight to end hunger in the senior community in South Hampton Roads and Western Tidewater, Virginia.
This month, we observe March for Meals, and I would like to shine the spotlight on the hot luncheon meals that Senior Services provides for seniors who participate in senior wellness programs at local senior centers throughout the agency’s service area.
Every year, Senior Services serves approximately 60,000 of these freshly prepared meals to seniors aged 60+. This program, however, provides more than just a meal. Every day, it offers hundreds of seniors around the region the opportunity to socialize, participate in activities or trips, and learn about health at a conveniently located senior center nutrition site.
The backdrop is a welcoming, open space, and a casual environment. Thanks to its community partnerships, the hospitality of local Parks and Recreation Department senior center programs, area churches, senior living communities, and the generosity of time lent by volunteers; Senior Services is able to provide a safe location and quality staff to provide for participants. The meals that are provided are approved by a registered dietitian, prepared by a contracted vendor, and follow the strict standards for senior nutrition as set forth by the Virginia Department for the Aging in compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture.
“It’s important to me because I have to watch what I eat; I am diabetic,” one senior told me.
Many are also surprised to find that meals served at one of the senior center nutrition sites come at no cost. Seniors are welcome to donate to offset the cost of the program, however there is no obligation. What’s more, seniors can also apply to become volunteers for this program if they find themselves inspired to do so.
The program also attracts community partners, such as Healthy Chesapeake, who frequently offer new opportunities to enhance the program experience. From woodshop, dancing, exercise to arts and crafting, there is always something to add excitement and purpose to the lives of the active seniors in the Hampton Roads Community and actively fight senior hunger. The Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia Congregate Nutrition Program is truly more than just a meal.
For more information about this program and how to join in on the fun, contact Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia at (757) 461-9481.