Articles and Information from GA Foods

The Cold Chain and the Best Practice in Serving Rural Customers

Posted by Paula Ardilla, Quality Assurance Manager on Mar 14, 2018 2:08:00 PM

Current Home-delivered meals in a van.jpg

Is this how you are delivering meals to your seniors?

One of the foremost challenges facing seniors aging in place in rural areas is food safety. In this context, food safety includes satisfactory dietary requirements, reliable food intake, proper food storage, transport, and handling. For seniors to receive proper nutrition, each of these areas must be adequately satisfied. Luckily, home meal delivery services tailored to seniors, like SimpleCook™, make health and nutrition easy and efficient.

Rural Food Safety Challenges for Seniors

"Although health status has multiple contributing factors, nutrition is one of the major determinants of successful aging...Primarily, nutrition helps promote health and functionality." -Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Malnutrition in seniors is an expanding problem in the United States. Malnourished seniors have higher health costs and lowered quality of life. Providing nutrition care through home-delivered meals is an easy and efficient way to improve health outcomes and quality of life.

Although most seniors require fewer calories than their younger peers, they require food that is more nutritionally dense. With age, the body has more difficulty taking in nutrients, and this is one reason older adults tend to be more vulnerable to malnutrition.

Physical Limitations Prevent Shopping

Many seniors have problems doing their own grocery shopping because of disabilities, injuries, or limited capacity. Additionally, elderly people are often on a fixed income. Because of this, grocery shopping becomes stressful and time-consuming at a time when nutrition is the most important.

Older adults in rural communities do not have access to the same public transportation and stores may be located further from their homes. If an elderly person loses the ability to drive and lives in a rural location, they must depend on friends and family to take them shopping.

Susceptibility to Foodborne Diseases

It is estimated that foodborne diseases account for 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States every year. Many foodborne illnesses occur because of improper food storage. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to both foodborne illnesses and the inability to store food properly. If seniors cannot reliably perform the following tasks, they are at increased risk for foodborne illnesses.

● Wash hands and surfaces often

● Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods

● Cook food at the right temperatures

● Chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers within 2 hours

Emergency Situations

Extreme weather is common in many parts of the country; from thunderstorms that knock out power to ice storms that render travel dangerous. If seniors are not prepared with food at home, their health could suffer significantly.

What Are Home-Delivered Meals?

Home delivered meals are a more cost-effective way to feed seniors in rural and urban communities. They are an alternative to hot meal delivery services where frozen meals are provided for the senior to prepare themselves.

These nutritionally complete meals reduce the costs of meal programs. They also improve food safety by ensuring proper food temperatures from storage to the table. Furthermore, frozen food is harvested at peak ripeness ensuring nutrient levels are optimal. Flash freezing assures there's minimal nutrient loss when processing the foods. Another benefit of frozen home-delivered meals is that they are easily moved and stored without compromising nutrient content.

Best Practices for Home Delivered Meals

What Is the Cold Chain Process?

The "cold chain" process is one of the most reliable methods of assuring food safety. This process controls the temperature during all stages of the process; from preparation to service. This prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria, which can cause serious illness.

The cold chain process transports perishable foods without making use of harmful additives and preservatives. This continuous cold chain ensures seniors are going to receive safe, healthy meals.

The right home-delivered meals service will use the cold chain process. Their meals will be flash frozen to 19° F and maintained in cold storage at -10° F until delivery. Delivery should occur in specially designed freezer trucks and, ideally, not by third-party delivery services. Meals delivered using services like UPS, FedEx, or even personal automobiles are unacceptable. It is too easy for temperatures to fluctuate. For this reason, meals should arrive in freezer trucks with drivers trained in safe food practices. Finally, it is important that the delivery driver unpack and put the meals away for seniors. This eliminates the risk of spoilage by maintaining the cold chain at all times. This also aids the seniors who physically limited and cannot lift heavy boxes. 

What Does DRI Mean and Why Is It Important For Senior Home Delivered Meals?

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are nutrient recommendations based on gender and age. Senior meals should meet 1/3 of the DRI for their age to maintain optimum health.

The best home-delivered meals for seniors will address any special dietary needs. They must accommodate seniors with low sodium and low sugar diets, and it is a benefit if they offer vegetarian options. Religious restrictions to diet are also important to consider when providing meals at home.

SimpleCook™ Delivers Cold Chain Protected, DRI Compliant Meals to Seniors

We developed SimpleCook™ to solve the many hurdles that the Area Agencies on Aging face. This innovative and patented technology allows AAA's to serve more seniors and simplifies their nutrition program. 

SimpleCook™ is an all new kitchen innovation from GA Foods that provides a flexible approach to group meals that…

  • Reduces the cost of a meal programsxSimple-Cook-logo_500x166-300x100.png.pagespeed.ic.tQp93bohT6.png
  • Improves food safety
  • Ensures “fresh from the oven” taste
  • Guarantees proper food temperatures at all stages of preparation
  • Allows multiple options matched to individual preferences for each mealtime
  • Works without a full kitchen by using the latest oven technology from GA Foods
  • Utilizes our SunMeadow® frozen senior meals that are chef and dietitian designed to incorporate great taste and nutrition

Foodborne Illness:  Protecting Your Seniors Technical Paper

Topics: Home Delivered Meals, The Cold Chain

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