Meal programs provide nourishment, socialization to older adults

Alicia Colombo

By Bill Conallen


Access to healthy and nutritious meals is essential to the well-being of older adults. Since 1973, PCA has provided more than 43.5 million nutritious meals to older adults. Meals are served in congregate settings at 28 senior community centers and satellite meal sites across Philadelphia, as well delivered to the homes of older adults who cannot shop or cook for themselves.

The Senior Nutrition Program (SNP), which funds PCA’s congregate and home-delivered meals programs, was among the first services provided under the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. SNP was the first federal program to tackle the issue of senior malnutrition by creating nutritious meal options for older Americans. Today, nearly one million meals are distributed each day through 5,000 providers in the United States with the goal of reaching older Americans with the greatest need due to financial and social obstacles.

“Our congregate and home-delivered meal programs provide invaluable access to healthy food and socialization, whether at home or a senior center, that many older adults would not otherwise have,” said Bea Winn, PCA’s assistant director of health and nutrition. “It is a very satisfying experience knowing that we are helping older Philadelphians to meet their basic needs so they can thrive within our community.”

Along with nourishing meals, PCA also educates older adults by providing reliable information that includes nutritional counseling, assessment, and screenings. According to Winn, PCA also holds itself to strict nutritional requirements that are healthy and suitable for older adults. No detail goes overlooked. All meals are monitored for the correct amount of nutrients to support healthy aging, including calories, carbohydrates, sodium, and essential vitamins.

Just as importantly, these meals also provide older adults with opportunities for social activities and personalized education that may not have been previously available to them. When the pandemic forced senior centers to temporarily adopt a grab-and-go method for meal distribution, that small moment of personal interaction offered older adults a brief respite from the isolation many felt during those challenging times.

“Our senior centers serve as the perfect location for older adults to access healthy nutrition, as well as take part in educational workshops, fitness sessions and recreational opportunities,” said Paulette Cunningham, director of PCA’s Southwest Senior Center. “That is why all our senior centers consistently strive to create an experience of acceptance, kindness, and love for one another that respects the diversity of the communities we serve. At the same time, we make it a priority to present programming that provides engaging experiences for older Philadelphians that fulfill their body, mind and soul.”

PCA’s home-delivered meals meet one-third of the recommended dietary allowance for older adults and the dietary guidelines for Americans. Many older adults and adults living with disabilities who are facing food insecurity cannot easily reach a senior center. PCA’s Home-delivered Meals program serves those who cannot afford balanced meals, are unable to cook or shop for food, and have no assistance to prepare meals. Since opening in 1997, PCA’s Meal Distribution Center (MDC) has delivered nearly 37 million meals to homes across the city from its location in North Philadelphia. Each week, the MDC delivers pre-packaged meals to the doorsteps of more than 4,300 older Philadelphians.

“PCA is always looking to innovate and be more sensitive to the needs of older Philadelphians, both nutritionally and logistically, when it comes to how we fulfill our obligation to implement the Senior Nutrition Program,” said Najja R. Orr, MBA, DBA, PCA president and CEO. “It is our hope to work to further diversify our offering to older adults to reflect the tapestry of distinct cultures in our city, as well as work with local restaurants to meet the need where it is most required. A simple one-size-fits-all approach will not work when the need to address food insecurity is so great.”


For more information about PCA’s nutrition programs for older adults, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to pcaCares.org.


Bill Conallen is the public relations specialist at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

Categories: Food Milestones eNews News about PCA

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