Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Seniors Act Seniors Nutrition Program
Long before my arrival as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, I worked to ensure that older Americans – and all Americans – have access to healthy, nutritious food.
As a member of the United States House of Representatives for more than two decades, I have worked tirelessly to support funding for programs that prevent hunger and food insecurity in our communities.
And as California State Attorney General, I fought to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), protecting access to food for those who need it most.
This work is essential to advancing health equity. The evidence is clear: good nutrition helps reduce chronic diseases, which disproportionately affect our most vulnerable communities. That’s why we’ve partnered with agencies like the Food and Drug Administration to lower the level of sodium in foods across the country and alleviate chronic diseases often linked to salty foods.
I am proud to continue this work as Secretary of HHS. And today, I’m thrilled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA) nutrition program.
The Older Americans Act nutrition program was signed into law on March 22, 1972, creating the first federal program to support the health and well-being of older adults through nutrition services. Decades later, OAA’s Seniors Nutrition Program – administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) – continues to fund local agencies and organizations that help seniors access healthy meals and to other resources so they can stay independent, well, and connected in their lives. homes and communities.
Every day, about 5,000 nutrition program providers serve about 1 million meals to older Americans across the country. Programs focus on underserved communities and others most in need – people with low incomes, those in rural areas and members of minority communities, including those with limited English proficiency. These meals make a difference – more than half of participants tell us that the meal they receive through the program provides 50% or more of their total food for the day, and more than 70% say they eat healthier foods thanks to the program.
But OAA’s Seniors Nutrition Program isn’t just about access to healthy meals – it also provides nutrition screening, education and counseling, and a vital link to health resources. , social connections and a range of home and community services that promote the general well-being of older people. The Meals on Wheels program also provides seniors with an opportunity for social interaction with a friendly face that they might not otherwise see. And communal meals — where seniors can come together to eat with others in their community — provide invaluable opportunities for meaningful connections that maintain attendees’ health.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, OAA’s Seniors Nutrition Program has continued to provide these vital services. Local programs have pivoted to use flexible and creative approaches to continue serving their communities, from curbside dining events and restaurant partnerships to safe remote food deliveries and virtual nutrition education.
As we commemorate this milestone anniversary of the OAA Seniors Nutrition Program, I want to commend the organizations and individuals who run local seniors nutrition programs across the country every day – and the perseverance of Americans ages they serve. Now as Secretary of HHS, I will continue to work as I have throughout my career to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, nutritious food and the services needed to support overall well-being. Together, we will build on 50 years of progress and close the equity gaps that undermine our health care system. And we will continue to innovate to ensure that as America’s aging population grows, we can provide the support they need to age independently in their communities, with dignity and in good health.