Ahead of the holiday season, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Special Committee on Aging, held a press conference in New York City to call for $1.93 billion in FY23 funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) nutritional programs. Senator Gillibrand was joined by Greg Olsen, director of the New York State Office for the Aging, Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging and Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels.
Since 1972, the OAA under Title III-C Nutrition Services has supported nutrition services for older adults across the country in a variety of ways, including by funding meals for senior centers, home deliveries, and other assistance for the success of these older adult nutrition programs. The additional funds Senator Gillibrand is seeking, in a letter sent to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, would enable service providers to account for rising food costs as well as shorten their waiting lists by serving more seniors and to implement plans to adequately address current and future need in their respective communities.
“As a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I am committed to fighting food insecurity and ensuring that our older adults have access to healthy and affordable meals,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Bolstering the Older Americans Act nutritional programs is a vital step in addressing the unique barriers older adults face accessing food. I’m proud to lead the call for nearly $2 billion in funding for the OAA so that everyone can have food on the table during the holiday season and beyond.”
“Food insecurity has long been a problem for older adults, and it is one of the reasons why the Older Americans Act was enacted in 1965 – to provide nutrition and support to our older population. The pandemic exacerbated food insecurity. In addition, our older American population is growing at a fast pace. Now more than ever, it’s important that cities like New York receive much-needed support for its congregate meals and home delivered meals programs, which feed some of our most vulnerable elders,” said NYC Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. “I am pleased to support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s efforts to increase funding for these critical programs. Access to food is a fundamental right and I urge the members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to do the right thing and invest in nutrition services for older Americans.”
“Access to nutrition is the cornerstone to good health and maintaining independence,” said Greg Olsen, Director for the New York State Office for the Aging. “The New York State Office for the Aging administers the largest nutrition program in the country, providing high quality meals in the home or a community setting while meeting federal nutrition guidelines. The pandemic created significant additional demand for nutritious meals and that need is ongoing. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for recognizing the value of nutrition providers and requesting this additional federal funding, which would bring nearly $130 million to New York State to help those in need put food on their tables.”
“Nearly 3 years since the start of the pandemic, which highlighted the particular vulnerability of older adults, relief funding has run out and the skyrocketing costs of food and fuel are presenting an insurmountable challenge both for older New Yorkers and the providers who serve them,” said Beth Shapiro, Executive Director of Citymeals on Wheels. “Fixed incomes can’t stretch as far as they did to supplement the one meal a day they receive through the home-delivered meals program, rendering even more homebound seniors food insecure. Meanwhile, food and fuel costs are pushing meal providers to the brink. Citymeals on Wheels served 18,000 older New Yorkers before the pandemic, and today we serve about 20,000—a number that may increase by up to 3,000 by the end of the fiscal year and will continue to grow as the City’s population ages. Inflation is compounding the strain of this rapidly increasing need, making it much more expensive to provide the same level of service, let alone to expand it. For example, our fuel costs doubled from FY21 to FY22 and in one Staten Island district, food costs increased by 16%. This is not sustainable, and ultimately will endanger the wellbeing of older New Yorkers. We can and must make a significant investment in OAA Home-Delivered Nutrition Services (Title III-C-2) to ensure that homebound older adults do not go hungry.”
About 5.2 million older adults in the United States, including an estimated 7.6 percent of older adults in New York, were food insecure in 2020. As the American population continues to age rapidly, with more than 75 million Americans aged 60 years and older, it’s vital to supply nutritional programs with the resources needed to create a pathway for social connection and meal deliveries for the older adult community.
The OAA is a major federal vehicle for delivery of social and nutrition services for more than 11 million older Americans and their caregivers. These programs include congregate nutrition services, home-delivered nutrition services, transportation services, activities to promote socialization and wellness, employment and community service programs, and family caregiver support. Specifically, Gillibrand is calling for $1.93 billion for OAA Title III-C Nutrition Services in the final FY23 appropriations bill.
In addition to Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), the letter was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ); and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1st), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35th), Susan Wild (D-PA-7th), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1st), Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7th), Seth Moulton (D-MA-6th), Peter Welch (D-VT-AL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-AL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9th), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-4th), Dwight Evans (D-PA-3rd), Gwen S. Moore (D-WI-4th), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (D-NY-16th), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29th), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12th), Andy Kim (D-NJ-3rd), and John Katko (R-NY-24).
For the full letter, please click HERE.