Edited by Payten Carroll
Food drives and collections are popular holiday humanitarian projects, but as Community Action Agencies (CAA) across the country know, hunger is a year-round problem that affects one in six Americans. Nutrition impacts the health and well-being of individuals as well as the economic security of the entire community. Hunger is a drain on community resources in terms of the resulting health care costs and increased need for public benefits.
The Sheridan County Tripartite Board in Wyoming recognized this ongoing issue was affecting their community and took action by providing nutritious meals to hungry residents in Sheridan County. The CAA coordinates a network of volunteers and service sites, which in 2010 served 111,201 meals to those in need through two programs—a Nutrition Program and a Home-Delivered Meals Program.
The Nutrition Program serves healthy mid-day meals seven days a week, year-round. With meal sites in several communities, the CAA reaches a wide range of residents in need. For the CAA though, quantity does not supersede quality. All meals meet a rigorous standard of nutrition, which complies with the most current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The meals, all of which are funded by CSBG, also meet a minimum of 33.5% (for one meal) of the dietary reference intakes established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. This is particularly important in communities where nutritious food is either not available or difficult for low-income individuals to access.
Besides operating meal sites, the Sheridan County Tripartite Board also began offering home-delivered meals to the 1,866 Sheridan County seniors (65 years and older) who live at or below $10,830 per year. They found that some homebound seniors had very limited fixed-incomes and often had to choose between buying food and paying for medication, housing, or other critical necessities. In response to this need, the program serves the same nutritious meals developed by the Nutrition Program, to seniors in Sheridan County.
The team of over 100 volunteers that make this program possible do more than serve food however. Every volunteer builds relationships with individuals at the meal sites and the seniors who participate in the Home-Delivered Meals Program.
In 2010, this program served 2,277 seniors, 236 of whom were considered low-income. While those seniors who have the means contribute a suggested meal donation to cover the cost of the meals, the CAA uses CSBG funds to offset the cost of food for low-income participants. Without CSBG funds, the Nutrition Program would not be able to provide meals to the neediest seniors.
As the results of this comprehensive nutrition program, seniors benefit from the reduced strain of grocery expenses on their fixed-income, increased participation in the community, and better nutrition. Each of these results contributes to the larger goal of increased self-sufficiency among community residents. Consequently, seniors are healthier and have a greater quality of life. This means more seniors can remain in their own homes and avoid expensive, tax-payer supported nursing home care. Sheridan County Tripartite Board knows it’s a win for the whole community when seniors are stable and healthy.