Celebrating 50 Years of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program

The 20th annual March for Meals celebration commemorates the historic day in March of 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965 to include a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older.

This year, Meals on Wheels programs from across the country are joining forces for the awareness campaign to celebrate 50 years of success and garner the support needed to ensure these critical programs can continue to address food insecurity and malnutrition, combat social isolation, enable independence, and improve health for years to come.

The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal-level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults. It created the National Aging Network comprising the Administration on Aging at the federal level, State Units on Aging at the state level, and Area Agencies on Aging at the local level.

Three Reasons Why Meals on Wheels Matter to Seniors 

Meals on Wheels Serves Seniors at Risk of Hunger and Isolation

While most older Americans possess at least one risk factor for hunger, malnutrition, social isolation, and/or loneliness, the seniors who need and rely on Meals on Wheels are, in general, even more vulnerable to these threats to their health and independence. For instance, individuals requesting Meals on Wheels are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease; take three or more medications daily, and experience functional impairment. For the majority of seniors receiving Meals on Wheels, the meals can often make up half or more of their total daily food intake.

The Gap Grows Between Those in Need and Those Being Served

The gap between those struggling with hunger and those receiving nutritious meals continues to widen year after year. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, nearly half of all Meals on Wheels America Member programs, reported that they had an active waiting list due to insufficient resources, and 85% of programs surveyed saw an unmet need for services in their communities at that time. Nationally, the OAA Nutrition Program network served 18.5 million fewer meals to seniors in 2019 than it did in 2009, due in part to inflation and rising costs of providing services.

Meals on Wheels Saves Taxpayers Dollars

Community-based senior nutrition programs, like Meals on Wheels, are saving taxpayer dollars by helping to prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room, reducing falls and hospitalizations, and the need for nursing home care -- costs of which are often incurred by Medicare and Medicaid.

Additionally, a 2015 government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that about 83% of food-insecure seniors and 83% of physically impaired seniors did not receive meals through the OAA, but likely needed them, thereby widening the gap even further between those in need and those the OAA network was able to serve at current budget levels. 

 

  

This year, Meals on Wheels programs across the country will urge Congres to fund the OAA Title III-C Nutrition Program at $1,387,773,000 in Fiscal year 2022 and build upon existing funding levels to double the OAA Nutrition Program in FY 2023.

How Can I Take Part in March for Meals This Year and Make a Difference for Seniors?

1. Advocate for Seniors!

Let your local elected leaders know that older adults need our protection. Find your nearest elected official and write them an email! 

2. Send a greeting to a senior! Locally, join Meals on Wheels San Francisco in supporting older adults by making handmade Thinking of You Cards to brighten a senior's day.

3. Join our Get Fit For Seniors virtual fitness challenge! During the month of March, turn miles into meals for older San Franciscans all while getting fit!