AUSTIN – Texas Health and Human Services will use a three-year, $750,000 grant to increase participation in the congregate meal program, which provides nutritious meals in a community setting to people age 60 and older.
“Having a place to go to share a meal and good company reduces hunger and food insecurity, and is important to maintaining good health,” said Wayne Salter, deputy executive commissioner for HHS Access and Eligibility Services. “Serving meals in a group setting is more than just nourishment for the body, it nourishes the soul for those who participate.”
While Texas’ aging population continues to grow, participation in the congregate meal program is declining. Established through the Older Americans Act of 1965, the program provides a wholesome meal in a community setting where people can socialize and participate in activities offered at the site, such as board games. The program includes nutrition education classes, chronic disease prevention classes, and other activities.
The grant will fund modernization of Texas’ congregate meal program through the creation of the Texas Congregate Meal Initiative. As part of the initiative, HHS will partner with Texas A&M University to conduct research to identify causes for the decline in program participation.
The Texas Congregate Meal Initiative will also provide training and project development practices, inspire innovation, increase participation in local congregate meal programs, and improve satisfaction, health, and well-being among the senior population in Texas.
“This is great news for our senior citizens,” said Rep. James White. “We stand on the broad shoulders of these great Texans and I am elated that HHSC will provide our local communities with more resources to serve our seniors.”
According to the US Census Bureau, between 2005 and 2017 the population of individuals age 60 and older has increased by 65% in Texas while the number of meals served through this program has decreased by nearly 25%. Participation in congregate meal programs has declined nationwide as well.
“We are especially pleased to be partnering with the Mays Business School, Texas Health and Human Services, and the Area Agencies on Aging on a project with the potential for improving the quality of life for aging populations throughout Texas,” said Nandita Chaudhuri, research scientist at the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University. “This type of project fits perfectly within the mission of the Public Policy Research Institute. The results have the potential to reduce social isolation among aging populations by connecting seniors to other members of their community through congregate meals.”
As a part of this initiative, HHS will utilize Texas’ 28 Area Agencies on Aging and their congregate meal providers to gather comprehensive statewide data. Area Agencies on Aging provide supportive services to people age 60 and older, their family members, and caregivers across the state’s 254 counties. These services give individuals the resources to maintain healthy and independent lives in their communities.
Seniors interested in participating in the congregate meal program can call 2-1-1 for the nearest location.
For more information about HHS programs and services, visit hhs.texas.gov.