Articles and Information from GA Foods

Summer Meals Feed Hungry Kids

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on May 11, 2016 1:44:24 PM

summer_feeding.pngThroughout the school year, many children rely on school meal programs to keep hunger at bay. Due to food scarcity in the home, these meals may be the only substantial nutrition some of these kids receive each day. However, when summer break arrives, many of these child nutrition programs end and kids are left hungry. This is when they require community assistance to fill the gap. Here are ways that communities can get healthy summer meals to children in need.

The Summer Food Service Program

Summer should be a time of rest and fun. It should also be a time for kids to develop in healthy ways so that they can learn things quickly when the new school year begins. Children living in poverty are at a disadvantage in summer because they no longer have access to the meals they normally get in school.

Hunger leads to increased illnesses and delayed development, which puts these children behind their peers when school starts again. If you wonder what can be done about this, you aren’t alone. Many people are unaware of government resources that are available for providing free summer meals to kids. One of the biggest programs is the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides reimbursement for organizations offering summer meal programsfor eligible children. If you want to mobilize a new summer food service for hungry kids in your area, your first step should be to look over the USDA’s programguidelines and contact them for assistance.

Ideas for Distributing Summer Meals to Children

Using mobile units
Even when there are food programs in place, the number of needy children receiving meals can fall drastically in summer. This usually occurs because many lack transportation to the food sites. Mobile food units solve this problem by bringing the food closer to home.

Different types of mobile units can be used. For example, if a neighborhood contains daycare centers or community centers with kitchenettes, refrigerated trucks can be used to deliver the food and leave it at the site. However, in rural areas and neighborhoods without suitable kitchen areas, mobile units like food trucks are usually a better option. These do not have to be actual food trucks. Many communities have creatively repurposed old buses, campers or minivans to serve as mobile kitchens. 

For the best impact, mobile units should be distributed to several different areas in the community. By planning half hour to one hour stops at various points in neighborhoods, a greater number of children can be reached and fed each day.

Combining meals with fun activities
One of the most important parts of creating a successful meal program is making kids feel welcome. Combining the service with games, contests and athletic events, or bringing in entertainers helps generate more publicity and excitement. Pairing free meals with summer fun can also draw kids who are wary of being identified as poor and hungry. The activities give them another reason to show up.

These events can be held at public parks, schools, recreation centers and similar sites around the community. To reach the most children in large metropolitan areas, it is best to host these at several locations.

Combining child nutrition services with senior programs
Some communities offer programs similar to Meals on Wheels but they deliver food to children in summer and not just senior citizens. However, this isn’t the only way that child and senior services could be combined. By sponsoring summer food service programs at senior centers, assisted living centers and similar venues, you can improve child nutrition while providing social opportunities between generations.

Getting the Word Out

The impact of the best meals program won’t be very strong if few people know about it. No matter how great the program is, it relies on some footwork to make the community aware of it. Here are easy ways to spread the word:

  • Ask television stations to mention it during broadcasts.
  • Put and announcement in the community section of your local newspaper.
  • Distribute flyers to neighborhood churches, shops, homes and community centers.

Flyers should contain all the information that kids and parents need to know about the program. This includes who is eligible for free meals, days and times the meals will be distributed, and what, if anything, kids should bring. In most cases, kids just need to show up to be fed.

Thanks to the help of the summer food service program and local volunteers, summer meal programs can cost little to operate yet they make a big difference in the lives of hungry kids. GA Foods provides food service to summer meals centers, both large and small.  

Improving child nutrition in summer means these kids can perform better the following school year. Healthy mental, physical and social development requires adequate food. As we support summer meals for kids, we are paving the way for a healthier community as a whole. If you are looking for a local program for your children, click here.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Food Assistance, Food Assistance Programs, Food Security

Senior Centers Impact Lives

Posted by Ritch Brandon on Jan 11, 2016 1:48:31 PM


We are so blessed.  Our team at GA Foods has the opportunity to serve some of the most grateful, needing, and loving people who are full of wisdom, spunk, and life.  We are regularly Junk_Mail_on_Vimeo.pngtouched by thank you notes, stories from our co-workers and the personal interaction we have with those we serve, particularly "our" seniors.  The following video is a beautiful window into the lives of those we love and serve.  

Be careful.  You will be moved.

 


98-year-old Mary moves us to tears

Mary is just like so many of the seniors we serve at congregate centers across the country.  She is, actually, one of the lucky ones who is not home-bound and unable to maintain the social bonds that senior centers provide to our sometimes forgotten neighbors.

 

If you were moved as much as we were, please share this post to remind others to visit their grandparents or support a local senior program.  


Do you have a story to share?

We would love to hear more stories about the impact your local senior center or Meals on Wheels program has had on a senior you know and love.  Please post any stories you are willing to share in the Comments section below.

Click here to learn more about GA Foods and how we nourish seniors.



 

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Topics: Senior Health, Food Assistance, Caregivers, Food Security Impact

How Food Assistance Programs are Helping Food Insecure Seniors

Posted by Terry White on Dec 30, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Terry White is an Account Executive at GA Foods. Formerly he has served as Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Executive Director for the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, and Chief for the Division of Home & Community Based Services, Ohio Department of Aging.  GA Foods is privileged to have a team member with extensive knowledge in services for seniors.

The number of adults reaching retirement age is expected to increase significantly over the next generation. In fact, the number of older adults could reach 80 million by 2040.

While none of this is inherently problematic, seniors have special nutritional needs that, if not met, could result in significant health challenges. On top of that, millions of seniors around the country are food insecure. In other words, they don't have reliable access to an adequate amount of food to meet their daily nutritional requirements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2014 a total of three million households with seniors (age 65 and older), and over one million seniors living alone, were food insecure.  

Aside from nutritional deficiencies tied into food insecurity, seniors who are food insecure have much higher rates of depression, heart attack and asthma. The really concerning thing about all this is that the number of food insecure seniors is anticipated to rise sharply as the entire baby boom generation nears retirement age over the coming decade.

How Did We Get Here?

A large share of seniors are struggling with poverty - the most recent Census data indicates the number of seniors battling poverty is approximately 10 percent, or 4.6 million seniors nationwide.Food_Assistance_Programs.png

Those below the poverty line in general are at a much higher risk of being food insecure, but when you add on top of that age-related health problems and functional impairments, you really start to appreciate why food insecurity among seniors is such an issue.

Food insecurity can be a problem for seniors even if they have the money to purchase food, as they might be lacking other resources and thereby remain food insecure. For instance, seniors who are food insecure might not have reliable transportation or a driver's license to make it to the grocery store on a week-to-week basis.

Senior Food Assistance Programs

There's a lot of research out there showing a strong connection between seniors, food insecurity and a lack of nutrients vital to good health (e.g., quality proteins, Vitamin B12 and magnesium). As you can see, there's an increasing need for food assistance programs to address this multifaceted problem. Here are some available options:

       Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program

Food insecure seniors can boost their overall health and get more access to essential vitamins and minerals through the senior farmers' market nutrition program. This program gives grants to seniors so that they can get fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers' markets, roadside stands and community agriculture programs.

      Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

The commodity supplemental food program is a great option to take for seniors aged 60 and older who are food insecure. This program is specifically tailored to provide low-income, food-insecure seniors more nutritious USDA foods. There's a huge selection of fruit, vegetable and dairy options available to seniors through this program.

http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/fdd/household-material-fact-sheets

    Administration for Community Living

The Adminstration for Community Living provides congregate meals as well as home-delivered meals and other nutritional services for seniors facing food insecurity. This is essential because food-insecure seniors were more than twice as likely to report average or poor health compared to other seniors. Food assistance programs aim to close that gap. To find a nutrition program near you, go to eldercare.gov.

Health and Psychological Benefits of Home-Delivered Meals

Research out of Brown University also shows that home-delivered meals can offer psychology benefits to seniors receiving them. This means that home-delivered meals are providing quality nutrition to seniors while easing the loneliness that many face.

The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) reports that 92% of home delivered meal recipients say meals allowed them to remain in their homes. Allowing seniors to age in place is cost-effective and improves the well-being of seniors. Home-delivered meals are increasing access to quality nutrition for low-income seniors and helping to put a stop to senior food insecurity.

If you'd like to read more about seniors and hunger, read this article.

Home-delivered meals improve health outcomes of seniors. Download our free ebook to learn more:

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Topics: Food Assistance, Food Insecurity, Food Security Impact

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