Articles and Information from GA Foods

Does your grandpa have the meal support he needs after a hospitalization?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on May 26, 2017 9:46:06 AM

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Food Insecurity in the United States

In the US, 48.1 million people live in households with food insecurity - meaning they do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Of those people, 20% or 9.6 million are seniors. Seniors with food insecurity tend to have more medical and mobility challenges. Older adults above the poverty level can also be at risk for food insecurity, particularly if they are unable to shop for and prepare foods.

Many confuse food insecurity with hunger, but food insecurity is a social, cultural or economic status, while hunger is a physiological condition – the physical pain and discomfort someone experiences. Hunger doesn’t describe the scope of food insecurity. The scope is more than most realize. Here is a breakdown by state:

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In the News - Clarence Blackmon

One example of food insecurity is the story about Clarence Blackmon. Mr. Blackmon, age 81, was discharged from a rehab facility where he had spent many months battling cancer. When he returned to his apartment, his refrigerator was empty. He had money to pay for food, but not enough strength to shop for or prepare food. He didn't have any family in the area. Not knowing what to do, he called 911 and asked the dispatcher to bring him food. The dispatcher brought him food and even made him sandwiches for several meals. Unfortunately, many senior adults experience food insecurity after a hospitalization.

Food Insecurity after a Hospitalization

Food insecurity also has an impact on hospital readmissions. One study interviewed 40 adults with three or more hospitalizations within a 12-month period. They found, that like Clarence, 75% were unable to shop for their own food and 58% were unable to prepare their own food.

Last fall, the Food Forum of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop on Nutrition Across the Life Span for Healthy Aging. One of the presenters, Mary Ann Johnson, emphasized the need to think about nutrition interventions when someone is discharged from a hospital and sent home without meal support. Many end up in acute or long-term care. She “mentioned an ongoing national conversation on how the medical health and social services health systems can work together and suggested that meals are an important link between the two.”

After a hospitalization, patients generally have decreased energy, pain, weakness, and a poor appetite, putting those with food insecurity at an even greater risk for malnutrition, and associated poor outcomes.

Meal Services after a Hospitalization

Connecting food insecure patients with resources such as home-delivered meals (HDM), decreases their need for shopping and cooking after a hospitalization. HDMs provide a regular source of nutritious food for those that need it for their recovery, reducing medical costs and the risk of a hospital readmission.

Many Medicare Advantage health plans, provide post-discharge meals for members after a hospitalization. Members who receive home-delivered meals after a hospital stay regain their strength and energy faster.

To learn more about nutrition care after a hospitalization, download our free white paper:

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Topics: Senior Health, Food Insecurity, Healthy Meals for Seniors, Senior Health Plans, Senior Nutrition

Teens and Food Insecurity

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Oct 5, 2016 11:00:00 AM

teen_food_insecurity.pngFood insecurity in children is a significant problem in the United States. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates, 7.8 percent of American households with children were food insecure* in 2015 – a percentage that amounts to 3 million households that were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Additionally, in 247,000 households, food security was characterized as very low, indicating periods of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Food insecurity is known to have detrimental effects on children of all ages. However, according to recent research, teens experience its effects quite differently than younger children. This research, done by the Urban Institute (a research organization that focuses on economic and social policy) and Feeding America (a nationwide network of food banks), examined the unique perspective and struggles of teens who face food insecurity in their homes. This was done via the creation of 20 focus groups made up of teens, ages 13 to 18, in 10 diverse communities. According to researchers, findings were similar across all of the focus groups, and many of them were rather disturbing. Among the most notable findings are:

Food Insecurity in Children: Teens Feel Responsible

Unlike younger children, teens in household experiencing food insecurity frequently feel obligated to help provide for themselves and others. While parents typically try to protect their teens from hunger, as well as those feelings of responsibility, teenagers commonly take an active role anyway. Often, that role includes depriving themselves to ensure that younger siblings have enough to eat, finding ways to bring food into the household, and/or working out ways to stretch family food supplies – eating with friends or relatives, for instance, or saving school lunches to bring home.

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Fear Of Being Stigmatized Deters Teens From Traditional Assistance Avenues

Teens are well aware that food insecurity in children is a widespread problem. Among teens who participated in this study, even those who did not experience food insecurity in their own homes were aware of neighbors or classmates who suffered from hunger on a regular basis. However, in spite of that awareness, teens from food-insecure families were found to work actively to hide the problem in their own homes due to a fear of being stigmatized. That fear led many teens to avoid traditional means of assistance, such as food pantries or free school meal programs, accepting help only from close friends or family in private. 

Some Teens Take Drastic Measures To Help Provide

Researchers found that the vast majority of teens who are determined to assist in providing for their families would prefer to provide that help via income from gainful employment. However, job opportunities for teenagers are very limited, particularly in communities with high poverty rates. Consequently, many teens resort to less conventional methods to bring money and/or food into the household. According to study authors, teens in 8 of the 10 communities involved in this research stated that young people engaged in criminal activity to provide for their families, including shoplifting, drug dealing and theft of items that could be sold for food money. Some teens discussed deliberately going to jail, as well as failing in school in order to be placed – and fed – in summer school. Teens in all 10 communities were aware of teens who resorted to prostitution, having sex in exchange for money to feed their families. Most of these incidents, according to researchers, consisted of exploitative relationships with older adults.

Effective Solutions are Needed

The picture that emerges from these findings illustrates the urgency of effective solutions in addressing food insecurity in children. Study authors stress the need for more research on the affects of food insecurity on teenagers in particular, an issue that has not yet received the attention it deserves.

Many school nutrition programs have had success in eliminating the stigma teens feel when receiving free and reduced school meals:

  • Universal School Breakfast combined with Breakfast in the Classroom - With this model, all students receive free breakfast. It is served in their first period classroom, so there are no barriers like needing to get to school early.
  • 2nd Chance Breakfast - Usually served after first period, individually-packed Grab n' Go meals are available on a cart in the hallways. If not utilizing Universal Free Breakfast, tablet-based point of service allows for a cashless system, charging agains student accounts or eligibilities. 
  • Healthy Meals Vending - These special vending machines are integrated into the school's point of service, allowing reimbursable meals to be charged against student accounts and eligibilities. Placing them in high traffic areas around the school provides easy access.
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) - CEP is now an option throughout the U.S. Under CEP, a school district can offer all meals at no charge to all students, if 40 percent or more of the students are direct-certified for free meals.  CEP can be used district-wide or just in one school. 

While these options do not negate the problem of teen hunger, they do provide students with healthy meals without social stigma. More needs to be done to provide vulnerable teens with effective support and solutions they need to overcome the unique challenges they face in food-insecure households.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act expired over a year ago. Congress still has not passed a reauthorization bill for programs that feed our hungry children and teens. For more information, click below.

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*Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Food Insecurity, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Does Food Security Impact Hospital Readmissions?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 20, 2016 9:59:59 AM

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Food Security (or Insecurity) Defined!

Food security, or insecurity, is a social, cultural or economic status, whereas hunger is a physiological condition – the physical pain and discomfort someone experiences. Hunger doesn’t describe the scope of food security, or insecurity, which is when people do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a validated survey with 18 questions to determine a person’s level of food security. Based on the answers to these questions, the USDA defines the levels of food security as:

  • High food security: answers “no” to all 18 questions.
  • Marginal food security: answers “yes” to one or two questions.
  • Low food security: answers “yes” to three or more questions.
  • Very low food security: answers “yes” to five or more questions in homes without children or “yes” to eight or more questions in households with children.

Food Security Among the Elderly

In the US, 48.1 million people live in households with low or very low food security. Of those people, 20% or 9.6 million are seniors. Seniors with low food security tend to have medical and mobility challenges. Per AARP, those at the greatest risk for low food security are the poor, minorities, the unemployed, the disabled, and those living in the South.

Older adults above the poverty level may also be at risk for low food security, particularly if they are unable to shop for and prepare foods.

Consequences of Low Food Security

Low food security is a strong predictor of health problems like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and pulmonary disease. Adding to the problem, these chronic conditions increase the medical expenses of those with low food security, often forcing them to choose between paying for medical care and buying food. In turn, the chronic conditions increase healthcare expenditures paid by health plans, Medicare and/or Medicaid.

A recent study looked at the impact that low food security has on high rates of hospital readmissions. They interviewed 40 adults with three or more hospitalizations within a 12-month period. Here are their findings:

  • 30% were low or very low food secure
  • 25% were marginally food secure
  • 75% were unable to shop for food on their own
  • 58% were unable to prepare their own food 

The researchers recommend interventions that educate and connect patients with unmet food needs to community resources after discharge. 

hospitalization_LR.pngTransition Care Planning

Healthcare professionals need to evaluate a patient’s food security level as part of the transitional care plan upon discharge from the hospital. Most transition care models don’t incorporate nutrition care, including screening for unmet food needs, after discharge. A guide from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, recommends addressing food security as a strategy to avoid readmissions for diverse populations. After a hospitalization, patients generally have decreased energy, pain, weakness, and a poor appetite, putting those with low food security at an even greater risk for malnutrition, and associated poor outcomes.

Connecting low food secure patients with resources such as home-delivered meals (HDM), decreases their need for shopping and cooking after a hospitalization. HDMs provide a regular source of nutritious food for those that need it for their recovery, reducing medical costs and the risk of a hospital readmission.

 

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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Senior Health, Healthcare Cost Reduction, Food Insecurity, Medicare, Food Security, Malnutrition, Medicaid

Tips for Preventing Malnutrition in Seniors

Posted by John Siegel on Jan 27, 2016 10:48:43 AM

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John Siegel is the VP of Business Development for GA Foods.  He has extensive experiencworking with healthcare organizations to optimize benefits provided to their members. Contact John at 954-732-6886 or jsiegel@gafoods.com to learn how your organization may benefit by providing these well-received services.

It may seem unbelievable, considering the abundance of food in the U.S., but malnutrition is a very real problem among the elderly. It’s estimated that as many as one out of every four senior citizens suffers from poor nutrition. This can have a serious negative impact on health, from lowered immunity to slower wound healing and exacerbation of existing diseases. It can lead to loss of weight and muscle strength, making daily activities more difficult and increasing the likelihood of falls.

Seniors with poor nutrition make more visits to doctors, hospitals, and even emergency rooms, and their stays are almost twice as long as those of well-nourished patients. Healthcare professionals and other caregivers should be aware of the warning signs for sub-optimal nutrition as they are in an ideal position to coordinate solutions with family and other caregivers before patient discharge.

Warning signs of poor nutrition

Poor nutrition can be a result of many things, from difficulty chewing or swallowing to lack of money for buying food. Being aware of the situations that can lead to malnutrition, and the warning signs that a patient or family member is suffering from poor nutrition is an important part of senior care. If your patient or family member is experiencing any of the following issues, they may be at risk:

Decreased appetite – Reduced appetite is often part of the aging process itself. The ability to taste also declines with age, making food less palatable. Decreased appetite may be a side effect of certain medications, or a symptom of depression.

Unplanned weight loss – This is usually a loss of muscle, not fat. This may be as obvious as the numbers on the scale when the person is being weighed, or you may simply notice that clothes are too loose.

Difficulty swallowing or chewing – Loss of teeth, poorly fitting dentures, or mouth pain can all cause difficulty when eating. This may also be a symptom of cognitive issues.

Chronic illness – Those on special diets for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, etc. may need help with managing their diet. Special diets such as these may also exclude foods the patient prefers to eat and they may need help adapting their eating patterns.

Recent hospitalization – Lack of appetite is a common aftereffect of illness or injury. While still in recovery mode, the patient may not feel like eating or have the energy to cook.

Fatigue or limited physical function – For some, going shopping for groceries is too tiring. Going to the store, picking out foods, and bringing them home may require more energy than they have to give. Likewise, cooking a meal may be too exhausting for some. Age-related loss of muscle may limit their functional capabilities, putting both these activities beyond their reach.

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It may be difficult for those who are lacking food and most at-risk for malnutrition to ask for help, even when they have supportive friends and family; for those with no support system, the problem is even worse. They may feel that they have no options, or be ashamed of their situation. Opening a discussion and talking about the subject in a non-judgmental and unpatronizing way can be very beneficial. You can then suggest strategies for dealing with some of the more common food-related issues listed above, such as:


Eating several smaller meals per day, including snacks, and increasing activity to stimulate the appetite

Including favorite foods in meals

Using spices to flavor foods—particularly helpful for those with decreased sense of taste, or people who are restricting their salt or sugar intake

Asking family or friends to help with shopping or/and meal preparation—this may be a particular problem for those with limited support, and in some cases home health services may be available

Inviting family or friends over to eat once or twice per week—not only does this provide the opportunity to check in and keep tabs on the patient’s well-being, it also provides social interaction and helps stave off depression

Looking into home-delivered meal service—some health plans cover this type of service, and many home meal delivery services are free or charge on a sliding scale. You can use eldercare.gov to help locate services in your area. For information on how to receive home-delivered meals, click here. Providers offer varying levels of service, from one meal per day to several, and at different costs. GA Foods offers nutritionally sound “heat-and-eat” or shelf-stable senior meal options.

Caring for the elderly is a community effort. Those in caregiving professions play an important role, not just in healthcare, but in making sure that the day-to-day needs of one of our most vulnerable populations are met—and adequate nutrition is high on the list of day-to-day needs.

 If you are a health plan or other health care organization
and want more information, click below:

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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Chronic Disease Management, Senior Health, Food Insecurity, 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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