All About Food (Part II)

Story 2: The Soup Kitchen

Frowning as her knife swept across the pastrami sandwich, she hesitated to hand it to him. These people always took what they were offered; most workers in the kitchen were too busy to ask. She felt like a murderer every time she made a high-sodium meal for someone who might have a stroke from hypertension any day. If only they could have more money for better food, or more volunteers who would take the time to find out about dietary restrictions. Maybe she’s an idealist: Filling hungry stomach wasn’t good enough if what they ate would slowly kill them. She engineered a smile as she gave him the plate.


Soup kitchens and food banks typically receive funding and food from product donors, the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program and CSFP, food drives, and purchased food. While they make every effort to provide nutritious food, it is not always possible to know about each individual’s special needs. Besides, a nutritious meal isn’t always the best thing in the world. A highly nutritious meal can still kill a person with renal failure if it contains too much phosphorus-rich food like peas.

Under Title III of the Older American Act, many senior centers have congregate meal sites that provide hot meals at low or no cost. Major senior centers in the city often have a suggested donation between $2-5 per meal. Efforts have been made to have nutrition screening and counseling at these meal sites. If staff at soup kitchens can coordinate with senior centers nearby, perhaps the dietary needs of seniors who have been on the street for a long time could be better met.


About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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