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Administration on Aging (AoA)

Nutrition Services (OAA Title IIIC)

The Purpose and Functions

The purpose of the OAA Nutrition Program is to:

  • Reduce hunger and food insecurity among older individuals,
  • Promote socialization of older individuals,
  • Promote the health and well-being of older individuals, and
  • Delay adverse health conditions for older individuals.

The Nutrition Programs are authorized under Title IIIC of the Older Americans Act. They fulfill their purpose by providing access to healthy meals, nutrition education and nutrition counseling.

The Nutrition Programs are targeted to adults age 60 and older who are in greatest social and economic need with particular attention to:

  • low income older individuals,
  • minority older individuals,
  • older individuals in rural communities,
  • older individuals with limited English proficiency, and
  • older individuals at risk of institutional care.

The Nutrition Programs are funded (in part) by the Administration on Aging (AoA), part of the Administration for Community Living, which administers the Older Americans Act. About 5,000 nutrition service providers together serve over 900,000 meals a day in communities all across the United States.

The Nutrition Programs are also funded by:

  • state and local governments,
  • foundations,
  • direct payment for services,
  • fundraising,
  • program participants’ voluntary contributions (of time and/or money), and
  • other sources.

For more information on the purpose of the Nutrition Programs, see the Older Americans Act Section 330.

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Nutrition Quality Standards (OAA Section 339)

The OAA requires that all meals served using OAA funds must adhere to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), provide a minimum of one-third of the Dietary Reference Intakes, meet state and local food safety and sanitation requirements and be appealing to older adults.

Because the Nutrition Programs are state administered, each State Unit on Aging has the responsibility and authority (Section 305) to implement the nutritional standards (Section 339) to best meet the needs of the older adults that they serve. For example, a state may choose to use their funds to provide meals that focus nutrient standards on prevalent statewide chronic disease(s) or predominant health issue(s) affecting older individuals. In practice, some states may require that menus for the meals served using OAA funds be developed using nutrient analysis, a meal pattern or a combination of both.

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Congregate Nutrition Services (OAA Section 331, sometimes called C1)

The Congregate Nutrition Services section of the OAA authorizes meals and related nutrition services in congregate settings, which help to keep older Americans healthy and prevent the need for more costly medical interventions. In addition to serving healthy meals, the program presents opportunities for social engagement, information on healthy aging and meaningful volunteer roles, all of which contribute to an older individual’s overall health and well-being.

The Congregate Nutrition program serves individuals who are age 60 or over, and in some cases, their caregivers, spouses and/or persons with disabilities.

Services are not intended to reach every eligible individual in the community. Services are targeted to those in greatest social and economic need with particular attention to:

  • low income individuals,
  • minority individuals,
  • older individuals in rural communities,
  • older individuals with limited English proficiency, and
  • older individuals at risk of institutional care.

Recent data from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants illustrates that Congregate Nutrition Programs are effectively targeting services, as evidenced by:

  • More than half of the congregate participants are 75 years and older,
  • Fifty-eight percent of the congregate participants indicated that one congregate meal provides one-half or more of their total food for the day,
  • Seventy-seven percent of the congregate participants indicated that they eat healthier as a result of the meal program, and
  • Seventy-six percent of the congregate participants indicated their health has improved as a result of eating at the lunch program.

For more information on Congregate Nutrition Services, see the Older Americans Act Section 331.

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Home-Delivered Nutrition Services (OAA Section 336, sometimes called C2)

The Home-Delivered Nutrition Services program of the OAA authorizes meals and related nutrition services for older individuals who are homebound. Home-delivered meals are often the first in-home service that an older adult receives, and the program is a primary access point for other home and community-based services.

The Home-Delivered Nutrition program serves frail, homebound or isolated individuals who are age 60 or over, and in some cases, their caregivers, spouses, and/or persons with disabilities.

Services are not intended to reach every eligible individual in the community. Services are targeted to those in greatest social and economic need with particular attention to:

  • low income individuals,
  • minority individuals,
  • older individuals in rural communities,
  • older individuals with limited English proficiency, and
  • older individuals at risk of institutional care.

Recent data from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants illustrates how the Home-Delivered Nutrition Programs are effectively targeting services:

  • Seventy percent of individuals served by this program are over 75 years old,
  • More than sixty percent of participants indicate that the single home-delivered meal provides one-half or more of their total food for the day,
  • Ninety-one percent of participants indicate that the Home-Delivered nutrition program helps them to stay in their own home, and
  • More than half of all participants live alone.

This program provides much more than food; it provides a wholesome meal plus a safety check, and sometimes the only opportunity for face-to-face contact or conversation for that day. For more information on Home-Delivered Nutrition Services, see the Older Americans Act Section 336.

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National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging

The National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging (NRC) is one of the many ACL funded Resource Centers. Resource centers provide information primarily geared toward professionals and when possible for consumers as well. The NRC supports the aging services network’s nutrition programs. The NRC’s mission is to disseminate information on how to build the capacity of the aging nutrition services network and increase the network’s integration into a home- and community-based service system. For more information, visit the National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging.

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Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP, OAA Section 311)

The Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP) provides grants to states, territories and eligible tribal organizations to support the Congregate and Home-Delivered Nutrition Programs by providing an incentive to serve more meals. States, territories and eligible tribal organizations can choose to receive their grant as cash, commodities (food) or a combination of cash and commodities. For more information on the Nutrition Services Incentive Program, see Older Americans Act Section 311.

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Performance and Outcome Information

AoA collects and reports on the performance of all OAA programs (to include the nutrition programs) through the State Program Reports (SPR) component of ACL’s National Aging Program Information System. The SPR serve as a critical data source for measuring each OAA program’s performance. ACL uses the reported information for a variety of uses to include use in ACL’s Congressional Justification. In practice, States may choose to access the State Program Reports (SPR) for intrastate or interstate comparisons. For example, a state may want to know if they are serving more or fewer home-delivered nutrition program participants when compared to another state. For this type of information or any other data queries, visit AGing Integrated Database (AGID). For more information on the specific national or state specific performance outcome information, visit State Program Reports. States, Area Agencies on Aging or providers seeking to develop measures to assess their own program’s performance are encouraged to visit Performance Outcome Measurement Project (POMP).

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Federal Funding

AOA issues grants for Congregate Nutrition Services and Home-Delivered Nutrition Services programs to states using a formula (Section 304) defined in the OAA. The formula is largely based on each state’s share of the U.S. population aged 60 and over.

AoA issues grants for the Nutrition Services Incentive Program to states, territories, and tribal organizations using a formula (Section 311) defined in the OAA. The formula is based on the entity’s percentage of the total number of meals served in the prior federal fiscal year. For more information on the federal funding for the nutrition programs, see Funding Allocations to States and Tribal Organizations.

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Programmatic Evaluation

AoA program evaluations insure that the most relevant data are available to policy makers, programs demonstrate value to the taxpayer, and programs have a track record of results. AoA strives to evaluate programs in an integrated manner combining process, outcome, impact and cost-benefit analysis of evaluation activities.

AoA is currently conducting an evaluation of the Nutrition Programs to assess the programs’ efficiency, programs’ effectiveness and client outcomes. The evaluation will also assess system infrastructure and interagency partnerships. For more information on the evaluation, visit Evaluation of the Title III Elderly Nutrition Service Program.

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Useful Links to More Information

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Last Modified: 12/31/1600