Each March, Meals on Wheels of America celebrates “March for Meals” to commemorate the month in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed into law an amendment to the Older Americans Act to include a national nutrition program for seniors. It’s about time Nixon got some credit. To this day, programs around the country—including the nutrition program at Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS)—put this funding to work to serve our communities’ seniors and disabled adults.
You may have seen some of our GLSS Meals on Wheels drivers zipping around town in our colorful vans. What you might not know is that our drivers deliver more than 800 hot, nutritious meals (prepared by Lynn’s own Sidekim Foods) every week day in Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Saugus, and Swampscott. These meals help our consumers in many ways, some of which go well beyond the program’s most basic mission of providing food to vulnerable community-dwelling adults. However, the important nutritional aspect of Meals on Wheels cannot be overstated. More than half of our consumers consider this home-delivered meal their main meal of the day and over three quarters of clients report this meal accounts for more than one third of their food for the day. This, along with the fact that about 40 percent of our participants report they would have a shortage of food without Meals on Wheels, shows the positive impact this program has.
In addition to combating food insecurity, Meals on Wheels helps our seniors “age in place.” Nearly three quarters of GLSS’ Meals on Wheels recipients reported the meal deliveries help them live independently. This is partly due to factors such as difficulty getting out regularly to shop or cognitive issues that might make meal preparation difficult or even unsafe. But part of it is also due to the important social connection meal deliveries bring. Even the brief interaction a driver has with the same senior each day leads to 68 percent of GLSS’ meals recipients reporting they feel less lonely because of their delivery driver. Finally, receiving Meals on Wheels ensures our seniors have someone to check on them each morning. With over one third of recipients living alone, Meals on Wheels provides a critical daily safety check to ensure the senior’s well-being.
With close to 30 Meals on Wheels programs operating in Massachusetts alone, the positive impact of that amendment to the Older Americans Act, signed way back in 1972, is still being felt. These programs help some of our communities’ most vulnerable members, ensuring they are fed, allowing them to remain in their homes, providing them social interaction, and guaranteeing someone is checking on them every day. I, for one, think this is a part of President Nixon’s legacy we can all endorse.
Benjamin Graff, MS, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and the Nutrition Program Manager at GLSS. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Human Nutrition from Drexel University and completed his Dietetic Internship at Simmons University. GLSS is the non-profit Aging Services Access Point and Area Agency on Aging serving people age 60 and older, adults with disabilities, and their families and caregivers in Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Saugus, and Swampscott. In addition to Meals on Wheels, GLSS’ Nutrition Program provides hundreds of other meals every weekday, which are served in senior centers and at day programs throughout the Greater Lynn area.