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Nutrition Assistance for Older Americans

This and Related Reports

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture and OAA, 2007

The Home-Delivered Meals Program assists people who are homebound. Designed to help prevent unnecessary institutionalization, this program helps older adults maintain independence and avoid social isolation. In 2006, nearly 140 million meals were delivered to almost 1 million people. Congress

The CSFP provides a monthly food package to low-income older adults, as well as certain pregnant women, infants, and young children. The food package is designed to be well-balanced and highly nutritious. Funding for the program is limited, and states must apply to participate. Participating states must decide which groups they will service. While originally the program was targeted to pregnant women and children, most states now use it to serve older persons.2

In 2007, the CSFP served 466,000 individuals each month, of whom 433,000 were elderly.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACF)

The CACFP subsidizes the cost of meals served in qualified day care settings. The program was initially available only to child care centers, but in 1989 Congress made adult day care centers eligible to participate. Currently, about 3 percent of participants are seniors. The amount of reimbursement varies with the income level of the recipient and the types of meals served.

More than 3,400 adult day centers operate in the United States, caring for 150,000 older adults each day.3 The CACFP can help subsidize adult day services and make them more affordable for consumers. In 2007, the CACFP provided meals to more than 86,000 individuals in adult day centers.

Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

Originally designed as a temporary program to reduce surplus agricultural commodities, the TEFAP has been extended by Congress to help address the continuing need for food aid. Commodities are distributed to needy individuals, soup kitchens, and food banks. Approximately 360 million pounds of food (including bonus commodities) were purchased in 2006. The reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill increased the annual funding from $140 million to $250 million and indexed federal funding to annual inflation.

Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

The SFMNP awards grants to states to provide low-income older people (age 60 and older with household income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level) with coupons that are exchangeable for eligible foods at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs. As of 2007, 46 states and federally recognized Indian tribal governments have been awarded grants to operate the SFMNP in their respective jurisdictions. In 2006, more than 825,691 people received SFMNP coupons to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.


Despite the existence of these federal programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that some 1.6 million households with elderly members experienced “food insecurity” in 2006.4 These households have limited or uncertain access to safe, nutritionally adequate food. Food insecurity can lead to malnutrition or adverse health consequences.

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