All About Food (Part III)

Story 3: Congregate Meal Sites

Every time he went there to collect data for his research, he wished he didn’t understand Korean. If it made them feel helpless to be offered food they didn’t like, it made him feel equally incompetent when he told them he couldn’t help them turn spaghetti into steamed rice. The disappointment on their face was striking. They were facing each other as they ate, but the only thing that was warm was the plate of food; the only sound one could hear was that of the fork and the spoon. Time to go, he told himself. ***

Through the eyes of a graduate student, we see once again that food alone is not good enough. Under the OAA, there is a responsibility to provide at least 1 hot meal a day for those aged over 60. In the County of Los Angeles, for example, there are over 100 congregate meal sites. One stated goal of the OAA amendments was to stimulate minority elderly to participate in nutrition services by assuring cultural pluralism in meal services. Although ethnic meals (Cambodian, Chinese, Mexican) are available at some sites, many seniors actually don’t have a choice when limited mobility makes it impossible for them to go to a site where ethnic food is served.

Stigma associated with visits to congregate meal sites is another overlooked barrier. With our better educated and relatively healthier middle-aged individuals approaching old age, strategies to make food assistance programs, meal sites, and meal delivery options more attractive will be crucial to better service provision. Perhaps we could rename meal sites? How about child-friendly congregate meal sites for seniors who are trusted with grandparenting responsibilities but could also benefit from these services?


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.
This entry was posted in Stories and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s