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New York’s program – the nation’s largest – provides over 20 million meals annually to more than 245,000 older adults, supporting physical health & well-being while combating social isolation

This national nutrition month in March, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) marks the 50th anniversary of the National Nutrition Program for the Elderly (NPE), established in 1972. The national program established grants to provide congregate and home-delivered meals to older adults who need nutrition support. To date, NYSOFA and the network of aging services professionals and volunteers have provided over 1 billion meals to more than 10 million older adults in New York. To learn more, visit https://aging.ny.gov/march-meals.

NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said, “NYSOFA is proud of the vital work rendered by local agencies on aging and community partners to reach this important milestone in meeting the nutritional needs of older adults. New York’s nutrition program has been a lifeline for millions of older adults since its inception, and especially so during the past two years of the pandemic. In that time, the demand for food delivery – and the network’s response to that demand – has increased significantly in meeting older New Yorkers’ essential nutritional needs.”

He added, “The public health importance of accessible, nutritious food cannot be overstated – and New York delivers. Local meal programs, and the nutrition they provide, are hunger fighting, helping to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, preventing the risk of falls, providing nutrition counseling and education, meeting numerous other physical and mental health needs, and fulfilling the highest dietary standards as required by federal law. …

“Every meal delivered to a person’s home or shared at a community table is also a chance to make a connection, overcome social isolation, discover other aging services supports at meal sites, or secure help for a neighbor who may be exhibiting additional struggles.”

New York State Sen. Rachel May, chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Aging, said, “The value of the nutritional assistance that NYSOFA has provided to countless New Yorkers over the last 50 years can never truly be quantified. The staff and volunteers who deliver these meals are not just providing food; they provide a connection to help combat loneliness and social isolation, as well as a lifeline in case of crisis. I want to congratulate NYSOFA on the 50th anniversary of the National Nutrition Program for the Elderly, and for all of their hard work in providing for older people across our state.”

Assembly member Ron Kim, chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Aging, said, “This month will be the 50th anniversary of a vital program our government created to feed and nourish older adults in America – the National Nutrition Program for the Elderly. Through this program, the New York State Office for the Aging has delivered meals and met the nutritional needs for hundreds of thousands of older adults each and every year since – the largest state program in our country. We are proud of this milestone in our society’s recognition of the dignity and worth of aging New Yorkers, and I look forward to building on its legacy by continuing to empower older adults while protecting and expanding their rights.”

Alison Barkoff, principal deputy administrator for the federal Administration for Community Living (ACL), said, “As the keystone program of the Older Americans Act, the Senior Nutrition Program is at the foundation of our nation’s system for helping older adults age in place. For 50 years, it has provided healthy meals, opportunities for social interaction, and access to a wide variety of programs and services to help older people stay active, healthy and engaged in their communities. ACL is proud of this program and the aging services network whose leadership and tireless efforts bring it to life across the country.”

Association on Aging in New York Executive Director Becky Preve said, “The nutrition program delivered by aging services providers is a lifeline for older adults and their families. The ability to provide nutritious meals and a daily safety check are many times the reason older individuals are able to age in place. The Association on Aging in New York is proud of our members, the collaboration with NYSOFA, and the tireless work they do to reduce food insecurity through the largest nutrition program in the country.”

Nutrition Programs Available to Older Adults

NYSOFA reminds New Yorkers that local nutrition services are available statewide to individuals aged 60 and over. These include congregate meals at community dining sites or home-delivered meals for individuals who are unable to shop, prepare meals and don’t have assistance to shop and prepare meals for themselves. Anyone over age 60 can access congregate meals, and those needing a meal at home have to meet eligibility criteria.

Income-based assistance is also available for older adults, including help paying for food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides coupons to buy locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets.

To access any of these vital programs, contact the local Office for the Aging using NYSOFA’s directory, or call the NY Connects hotline at 1-800-342-9871. Find further program background and application information on NYSOFA’s nutrition assistance page.

New SNAP Process and Video Tutorial

New York state recently streamlined the SNAP enrollment process to make it easier for older adults to participate, including a shorter SNAP application and less frequent recertification periods (every 36 months instead of 24). Also, an interview is no longer required during the recertification process.

To outline these important changes, NYSOFA recently produced a video with tips to help people complete the new application process.

Volunteers Needed

Local offices for the aging also rely on volunteers to help support locally administered nutrition programs. Contact the local office for the aging about volunteer opportunities, including meal preparation, meal delivery or assistance at a congregate meal site in the community.

“Local offices for the aging and their partners provide over 20 million meals annually to more than 245,000 older adults,” Olsen said. “These programs succeed through a partnership of federal, state and community resources, including the kindness of everyday New Yorkers who help prepare, serve and deliver meals. Please consider donating your time and make a difference by volunteering today.”

Further Background on 50 Years of Nutrition Programming

The Nutrition Program for the Elderly is an essential cornerstone of the federal Older Americans Act to support the health and well-being of older adults through nutrition services.

The program was officially established 50 years ago under its own title of OAA, in 1972, when it was permanently authorized by Congress. It is overseen at the federal level by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which provides grants to state-level nutrition programs.

Funding for New York’s nutrition program at NYSOFA comes from a combination of federal, state and local government sources coordinated into a single statewide nutrition program.

To learn more about the program, see the county breakdown of home-delivered and congregate meals served in New York, and other resources at https://aging.ny.gov/march-meals.

The New York State Office for the Aging works to help the state’s 4.6 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented, and cost-effective policies, programs and services that support and empower older adults and their families, in partnership with the network of public and private organizations that serve them. Stay connected: Visit the NYSOFA Facebook page; follow @NYSAGING on Twitter and NYSAging on Instagram; or visit aging.ny.gov.

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