Kirsten J. Colello
Specialist in Health and Aging Policy
The elderly nutrition services program, authorized under Title III of the Older Americans Act, provides grants to state agencies on aging to support congregate and home-delivered meals for people aged 60 and older. The program is designed to address problems of food insecurity, promote socialization, and promote the health and well-being of older persons through nutrition and nutrition-related services. It is the largest Older Americans Act program, funded at $817.8 million in FY2011, accounting for 42% of the Act’s total funding ($1.932 billion). In FY2009, the most recent year for which data are available, almost 242 million meals were served to just under 2.6 million people; 62% were served to frail older people living at home, and 38% were served in congregate settings. The number of home-delivered meals (commonly referred to as “meals on wheels”) served has outpaced congregate meals, growing by almost 47% from FY1990 to FY2009; the number of congregate meals served declined by 35%. The faster growth in homedelivered meals is partially due to relatively higher growth in federal funding for home-delivered meals over that time period, as well as state decisions to focus funds on frail older people living at home. Congress approved the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006 (P.L. 109-365) extending the Act’s authorization of appropriations through FY2011.
This report describes the nutrition services program authorized under Title III of the Older Americans Act, including the program’s legislative history, purpose, and FY2011 funding levels. It also provides information on service delivery requirements and program data regarding the number of meals served and program participation. The report briefly discusses former and more recent efforts to evaluate these programs. Finally, the report identifies selected issues for federal policymakers, including measuring unmet need for nutrition services, the effects of the economic downturn, additional funding flexibility, and increased cost-sharing.
Date of Report: June 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS21202
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