ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico has one of the highest rates of senior hunger in the nation, according to 2016 data from
Feeding America. A new partnership, funded by a four-year, $400,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hopes to help change that.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services is partnering with Three Sisters Kitchen, Encuentro and Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque to connect more than 1,620 Bernalillo County seniors with local produce, nutritious meals and support in preparing and enjoying healthy foods. The project, "Connecting Harvest to Health/Conectando Cosechas con la Salud" will work to improve senior nutrition, reduce language access disparities, increase local food access and consumption of nutritious foods, enhance workforce development, support entrepreneurship and local growers by:
- Training 135 home health aides on senior nutrition, eating assessments and using local produce to prepare healthy meals for both their senior clients and their own households, including an optional internship to pair caregivers with low-income elderly.
- Expanding Meals on Wheels' home delivery service by increasing the amount of local produce in meals and sponsoring free meals for select high-risk, low-income Presbyterian patients.
Over four years, the partnership expects to buy more than 63,000 pounds of produce from at least 10 local growers and provide meal delivery to low-income seniors. As the grant administrator, Presbyterian will provide matching funds.
"We are thrilled to receive this USDA grant," said Leigh Caswell, director, Presbyterian Center for Community Health. "This project gets to the heart of Presbyterian's mission to improve the health of the patients, members and communities we serve. By connecting seniors to healthy food, we are also helping local farmers and providing economic opportunities for home health aides in our community."
"Elderly nutrition training is essential to our growing home health aide workforce," said Andrea Plaza, executive director, Encuentro. "We know health and well-being improve exponentially when our elders have someone with whom they can enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal. The combination of training, access to local foods and direct care opportunities makes this an innovative approach to address the needs of our treasured New Mexico elders."
Improving access to healthy food is a community health priority at Presbyterian. This year, Presbyterian launched a Food Pharmacy that provides free food for select patients in need. Other programs include a free meal program for children at five Presbyterian hospitals, the Healthy Here Mobile Market, the Fresh RX program, which provides patients with "prescriptions" for fresh produce and more. Please see "community health program highlights" on
www.phs.org for more information.
About Presbyterian Healthcare Services
Presbyterian Healthcare Services exists to improve the health of patients, members and the communities we serve. Presbyterian is a locally owned, not-for-profit healthcare system of eight hospitals, a statewide health plan and a growing multi-specialty medical group. Founded in New Mexico in 1908, it is the state's largest private employer with more than 11,000 employees.
Encuentro's mission is to transform our state into a thriving community for all New Mexicans by engaging with Latino immigrants in educational and career development opportunities that build skills necessary for economic and social justice.
About Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1972 by a group of women from Presbyterian Churches around Albuquerque. We began with 20 clients and 40 volunteers. Today we serve approximately 500 clients and have over 400 volunteers. We delivered 9,400 meals in 1972. Today we are delivering over 140,000 meals a year. Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque provides nutritious meals and crucial social contact each day. Not only do we provide friendship and compassion but we also check the well being of those we serve.
About Three Sisters Kitchen
Three Sisters Kitchen is a new community food space in the heart of downtown Albuquerque that uses the power and love of local food to create economic opportunity, improve community health, and bring our diverse communities together around the table. Their space features a commercial test kitchen for new food business development, a community classroom for community food and nutrition education, a community dining room for events and pop-ups, and a local foods shop and cafe. Visit
www.threesisterskitchen.org for more information.