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Congregate and Home-Delivered Meals - Help In Staying Healthy

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Congregate and Home-Delivered Meals - Good Nutrition And Healthy Aging, Warning Signs Of Poor Nutritional Health, Help In Staying Healthy

Help in staying healthy

Across the country, in neighborhoods small and large, community nutrition programs serve over 1 million meals a day to seniors at least once a day, five or more days a week. In 1997, more than 116 million meals were served to about 2 million older persons in congregate settings and over 123 million meals were served to about 890,000 homebound older persons.

Congregate meals. Congregate meal sites are located in senior centers, senior housing projects, schools, churches, and other community settings. Community nutrition programs also deliver supportive services other than a meal, including nutrition and health screening, and nutrition education. When possible, transportation is offered to and from meal sites for those who need it. Many meal sites have outreach programs and linkages with other community agencies to locate hard-to-reach, isolated, or underserved older people. As a result, the NPE helps provide access to many other health, housing, and social services.

The costs of a congregate meal in 1997 averaged $4.60. While many elders drop in at community meal sites quite frequently (60 percent usually participate four or five days a week), others participate only occasionally.

Home-delivered meals. The first Meals on Wheels program was established in 1954, in Philadelphia. Today, home-delivered meals are available throughout the country. They are provided by congregate meal sites, affiliated and nonaffiliated food service establishments, and other community organizations.

In 1997, the cost of preparing a home-delivered meal averaged $3.65. The use of volunteers to deliver the meals and provide friendly visiting helps keep the costs low. Persons may be homebound because of illness, disability, or isolation. Some homebound elders may need meals delivered for only a short while, following a hospital stay. People with more extensive needs may require home-delivered meals in addition to other community-based long-term care and social support services. For these people, home delivery of meals is crucial to their ability to remain independent.

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