Feeding the Generations: A Unique Intergenerational Nutrition Program

By Quigley, Kimberly K.; Absher, Anita Glee et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Feeding the Generations: A Unique Intergenerational Nutrition Program


Quigley, Kimberly K., Absher, Anita Glee, Hildebrand, Deana, Johnson, Christine A., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


The Older Americans Act Nutrition Program and the Summer Food Service Program were combined to provide a unique intergenerational meal program in rural Oklahoma. Focus groups consisting of older adults, children, and site staff were conducted to assess satisfaction. Older adults expressed satisfaction in seeing children at their site and felt they were contributing to the children's well-being. The children appreciated eating at the senior center and meeting friends; they plan to return next summer. Staff reported providing meals for the children in the summer as important, and they observed interactions between children and older adults. This program has potential for being replicated in other communities.

The Older Americans Act Nutrition Program (OAANP) was created in 1965 to delay premature institutionalization of older adults by providing opportunities for social contact and improved nutritional intake (Kretser, Voss, Kerr, Cavadini, & Friedmann, 2003). It is the largest community nutrition program for older persons in the United States. The OAANP provides nutritious meals that meet one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (United States Administration on Aging, 2005) for all persons over age 60. The program targets those in the greatest economic or social need, although there is no income requirement to participate.

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services: Aging Services Division administers the program to a network of 11 area agencies on aging and 22 nutrition projects. There are approximately 250 meal sites providing more than 4 million nutritious meals to 35,000 older adults yearly, as well as providing links to other aging-related services.

SUMMER FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides nutritious meals and snacks to children when school is not in session (United States Department of Agriculture, 2006). Eligible sponsoring organizations include public and private schools; non-profit summer residential camps; units of municipal, county, or state government; colleges or universities participating in the National Youth Sports Program; and other nonprofit organizations establishing a summer program providing foodservice. They must serve geographical areas in which 50% of the children are eligible to receive free or reduced price school meals. Upon approval by the administering state agency, any child up to age 18, regardless of socioeconomic status, may receive either one or two reimbursable meals each day.

In addition to providing the nutrition needed to learn, play, and grow during the summer months, many sites provide educational enrichment and recreational activities that help children continue to learn, be physically active, and stay safe when school is not in session. In a comprehensive study of the SFSP conducted by the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Gordon and Breifel (2003) reported that 93% of SFSP programs offered activities in addition to meals. Activities included educational activities, supervised free play, organized games or sports, and arts and crafts. These opportunities can help reduce the "summer effect" or setback in educational achievement experienced when students do not participate in constructive activities during summer months (Rosso, Fitz Simmons, Cama, Parker, &Weill, 2005).

In response to low participation rates in the youth summer feeding program, the Secretary of Agriculture was authorized by Congress in December, 2000, to conduct a pilot project to increase SFSP participation. The pilot consisted of simplifying cost accounting and sponsoring agency application procedures. An evaluation study conducted by the USDA (Singh & Endahl, 2004) identified barriers to future program growth. State agencies cited not having enough sponsors, inadequate program publicity, and lack of community involvement as reasons for low participation. Sponsors reported the need for greater community involvement as well as additional funding to increase participation among families with children ages 18 and under. …

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