Piedmont Senior Resources works to meet needs

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, September 14, 2022

More than 9.7 million seniors are threatened by hunger. Of these, 5.3 million are food insecure; they lack consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy life. The fact that 1 in 4 seniors lives alone and feels lonely compounds the matter.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension staff spoke to Justine Young (JY), Chief Executive Officer, and Jordan Miles (TJM), Director of Nutrition Services at the Piedmont Senior Resources (PSR) Area Agency on Aging, about the greatest needs of seniors and how his organization is helping to meet those needs.

PSR is one of the largest affiliates for Meals on Wheels, serving 80 to 100,000 meals a year. This service provides social interaction and the ability to check to see if seniors have other needs. PSR also hosts Friendship cafes that serve group meals and is working to get a large refrigerator to supply more fresh produce to their clients.

Q: What are some of the greatest needs of your older adult clients?

TJM: A health needs assessment conducted in Central Virginia identified nutrition and food insecurity as a top need in the seven county area. Many of the counties are considered food deserts where residents have limited access to food, especially to fruits and vegetables.

JY: Some of our clients live so far out that there is not a store near them, certainly not a grocery store. Our clients receiving home delivered meals can’t drive, and there is no public transportation in the rural counties.

TJM: Accessible transportation is a big need for our clients. There is no on-demand transportation in the area, and medical transportation is unreliable, as well. PSR provides affordable medical transportation to help address this need.

Q: When it comes to diet and food, what are some of the major concerns of your clients?

TJM: Our clients want healthy meals that taste good. Oftentimes what tastes good is relative to their upbringing and what they’re used to. This can be a barrier at times. PSR tries very hard to provide healthy, culturally and medically tailored meals that people enjoy.

Q: What are the biggest nutrition concerns of your clients?

JY: A huge issue is that even if they get groceries, some of our clients can not stand long enough to prepare a healthy meal. They depend on less nutritious food that doesn’t require preparation. Some can not afford nutritious foods.

TJM: They are grateful for the healthy meals. They mention that the effect of healthy meals has shown in better health outcomes during healthcare visits.

Q: What help does your agency offer for food access needs?

TMJ: The agency offers SNAP benefit sign-up and monthly food boxes to 200+ clients.

Q: Are there resources you can recommend for people experiencing food insecurity?

JY: Area Agencies on Aging are a great resource. Local food pantries and food banks, churches, Meals on Wheels affiliates, and social services are also excellent resources. We work with these organizations to help local residents with food insecurity.