By Becky Handley, UMD Dietetic Intern
Have you ever wondered where your next meal will come from?
For many older adults, this is a question they ask themselves almost every day. Whether these individuals are limited by access to transportation that links to a local grocery store, health conditions that limit driving or heavy lifting, or finances with little expendable money to pay for food, many older adults require assistance in finding their next meals. Luckily, with the help of Anne Arundel County’s Department of Aging and Disabilities on the east side of Baltimore, MD, hundreds of older adults in this area know where they are going to get their next meal to receive the nutrition necessary to maintain a high quality of life.
For my first community rotation, I had the opportunity to shadow the Director of Nutrition Services at the Department of Aging and Disabilities and learn the ins-and-outs of two of its nutrition programs, Congregate Dining Services and Home Delivery Services. In an effort to reach older adults who require assistance, Anne Arundel County divides eligibility for their nutrition services into two categories. For older adults who are self-sufficient, Congregate Dining Services are available at one of the 7 local Senior Centers located across Anne Arundel County. Here, Seniors ages 60 years and older have access to at least one meal a day that is healthy and balanced in each of the five food groups. In addition to free meals, a variety of educational programs, recreational activities, health screenings, seminars, and classes are provided to promote social activity, food security, and wellness in the community. For those who require additional assistance and do not have access to their local Senior Center, Home Delivery Services are an option. Each day, over twenty Meals on Wheels volunteers set out into the community to deliver two balanced meals, one hot and one cold, per day to Seniors who qualify for the program. Together, these two programs provide options and resources to older adults and enable them to live independent and meaningful lives.
Working alongside those who run the Congregate Dining Services and Home Delivery Services, I saw firsthand how much these Seniors depend on and enjoy these programs. After providing a snack with accompanying nutrition education at one of the Congregate Centers, I personally experienced the community members’ eagerness to learn more, as well as their appreciation for the interaction and healthful snack. And while delivering meals across the area, I witnessed the deep friendships the Senior members had made with the Meals on Wheels volunteers and their gratefulness for receiving assistance in securing nutritious meals. Working with Nutrition Services at the Department of Aging and Disabilities showed me how important these programs are to the local Senior community members, and as a future RD, how important it is to advocate for programs that support the needs of the aging community.