Meal Assistance for Seniors
Your guide to eating well as you get older.
It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but in reality, every meal is important. This is especially true as you age and your metabolism slows. Getting as many nutrients as possible out of each meal gives you the strength to stay active and independent, even as you consume fewer calories. You’ll feel better and save money on medical services when you eat healthy.
As you plan your meals and shop for ingredients, be sure to choose a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need. Your plate should be a kaleidoscope of colors, with fruits and vegetables in bright shades of red, orange, green and purple alongside lean proteins like chicken and fish. Calcium and Vitamin D are essential to maintaining bone health as you age, while foods that are rich with potassium and low in sodium may keep your blood pressure in check. Fiber is important to the wellness of your digestive system and your heart health.
Food for Thought - 5 Easy Ways Seniors Can Stay Nourished and Enjoy Eating
Use herbs and spices in place of salt to add flavor to foods, boost your appetite and reduce your sodium intake.
Drink protein shakes to get enough servings in this food group. Look for brands that do not have a lot of added sugar.
Shop for foods that are recipe ready If chopping or peeling is difficult. For example, many stores sell squash that’s already cut and seeded.
Steam vegetables and puree fruits if you have difficulty chewing. Drink water or low-fat milk between bites to aid with swallowing.
Check the labels of breads and cereals to see if they are fortified with vitamin B12. Adults 50+ often don’t get enough of this essential vitamin.
Alternative Ways Seniors Can Get Food
Grocery shopping may not always be possible, however, and there are days when you just don’t feel like cooking (regardless of your age). This doesn’t mean that your plate can’t be filled with brightly colored foods that contain the nutrients you need.
Many stores and/or e-tailers — including Amazon Fresh and Walmart — offer online grocery shopping with home delivery. Shipt is a shopping service that delivers food to your doorstep from local grocery stores as well as national retailers including Target, CVS and Costco. Delivery fees vary depending on which service you choose. One-time fees are sometimes waived with a minimum purchase or you could pay a subscription fee that covers multiple deliveries with an allotted amount of time.
*NOTE: Amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, many grocers are offering free delivery to seniors. Volunteers across the country are also organizing complimentary shopping and delivery services to help those at risk. If you have questions about this, call 1-833-MY-SENIOR.
Senior Food Boxes
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides funding and food to participating states, which, in turn, offer free meal boxes to the homebound and/or seniors with low incomes. Qualifying income limits vary by state, as does the timing of the deliveries. Food boxes may be delivered weekly or monthly and are filled with both nonperishables and fresh food. The program is not intended to be seniors’ sole source of food, but rather focuses on nutrients that are often lacking. Some food banks and other community partners like AARP also offer cooking classes for seniors where you can learn easy recipes using ingredients commonly included in the boxes. Visit FeedingAmerica.org to find a food bank or food pantry in your area and determine if you qualify.
Meals on Wheels
What started in 1954 with a small group of Philadelphia residents who made senior meal delivery a priority has grown into a national program that helps upwards of 2 million older Americans with mobility challenges meet their nutritional needs — and get some social interaction as well. Meals on Wheels menus can be tailored to meet dietary restrictions associated with medical conditions or cultural preferences. This program receives some government funding, but not everyone qualifies for a free meal. Recipients are sometimes required to pay a small portion of the meal cost depending on their income and the area they live in. Search by zip code to find a provider near you or your loved one who is over the age of 60.
Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Utah
Davis County Area Agency on Aging
Davis County Family Health & Senior Services
Phone: (801) 525-5050
Address: 22 State St 3rd floor, Clearfield, UT 84105
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Salt Lake County Area Agency on Aging
Salt Lake County Aging Services
Phone: (385) 468-3200
Address: 2001 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84114
Hours: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Utah County Area Agency on Aging
Area Agency on Aging
Phone: (801) 229-3804
Address: 586 E 800 N, Orem, UT 84097
Hours: Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Instead of using Meals on Wheels, seniors who do not have mobility challenges are encouraged to visit their local senior center or a faith-based organization that provides meals in a group setting. Congregate meals are often free for those over 60, but you may be asked to make a small donation to cover the cost of the food if you are able.
*NOTE: Most congregate meals for seniors have been temporarily suspended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Meals by Mail
Meal kits are ideal for those who still enjoy cooking, but may not be able to go shopping. Fresh ingredients and recipes are delivered to your home. Most meal kits are designed for a minimum of two people and include different subscription options to fit your needs. Popular services include HelloFresh, BlueApron and Home Chef.
Silver Cuisine is a meal service designed by doctors to meet the nutritional needs of those over the age of 50. Menus are available for a variety of special diets including diabetic, heart healthy, low sodium, vegetarian and gluten free. Unlike the meal kits listed above, Silver Cuisine meals are fully cooked, can be stored in the freezer and easily heated up when ready to eat.
Prepared Meals From Medicare Advantage Insurance
Some Medicare Advantage Plans provide frozen meals at no additional cost to Medicare members who have recently returned home after inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Humana Well Dine, for example, delivers heat-and-eat meals to the member’s door so they can get needed nutrition during recovery. The exact number of meals you receive depends on whether you have a temporary or chronic condition. All meals are designed by dietitians and have options for special diets. If you have Medicare Part C, contact your provider to see if meal delivery services are included in your plan.
Programs That Provide Meal Benefits for Seniors
If you, like millions of other seniors, have a limited income and can’t afford to buy groceries or use a mail-order meal service, you still have options. There are several federal programs that offer financial assistance so you can continue to eat well.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is a financial assistance program that gives qualifying people the means to buy healthy staple foods at grocery stores. The money can also be used for congregate meals as certain senior centers and sometimes meal deliveries from Meals on Wheels. If you are eligible for this program, a benefits account is set up in your name and you receive an Electronic Benefits Card. Money is put in your account each month and you use the EBT card just like you would a bank debit card. Different states have different application processes, and there are different rules for seniors than the younger population. Use this state directory of resources to get information specific to your location.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition
Though it’s not yet available in every state, this U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides coupons to low-income seniors that can be exchanged for locally grown vegetables and fruits. The benefits also extend to herbs and honey. Visit the official Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition website for more information.
Emergency Food Assistance Program
Even if you don’t qualify for assistance on a regular basis, there may be times when you temporarily experience a financial hardship. This federal program provides resources to state food banks to ensure that low-income Americans don’t go hungry. Visit FeedingAmerica.org to find out what’s available in your area.
Still have questions about meal assistance? Our SeniorLeaf consultants have the answers. Call 1-833-MY-SENIOR for more information.