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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging Helps Make Meals Easy for Older Adults

Learn how this AAA provides education, assistance and tools to help older adults prepare nutritious meals at home.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging's Making Meals Easy program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Nutrition category.
 
To help older adults in its community increase their consumption of protein, vegetables and whole grains and reduce malnutrition, the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging developed the Making Meals Easy program. Clients participating in the program receive education on food safety and nutrition as well as a slow cooker, recipe booklets and assistance preparing 10 nutritious meal kits that can be frozen and reheated later. The program also addresses loneliness and isolation because meals are prepared by partners and in groups.
 
Reaching older adults who aren't eating well and teaching them how to easily prep meals helps older adults within the community eat better in the long term. Results show that program participants enjoy the program, consume the meal kits and believe they are eating better because they are participating in the program.
Participants report that they love working together to make the meals and appreciate the new recipes and ideas for meals they receive. At a recent event, a gentleman who had lost his daughter and spouse within a few months of each other shared that he had been eating convenience foods and snack items—and was thrilled to learn cooking tricks and join other program participants for the day. He later reported that the meals were easy to cook.

For AAAs interested in developing a similar program, the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging shares that planning is key. It is important to find recipes that are culturally specific and appealing to your consumers, have several people involved in the planning process to ensure there is the right amount of food, right number of recipes and enough kitchen gadgets and utensils on hand to help the process go smoothly, and have staff present and ready to assist as needed.
 
To learn more about Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging's Making Meals Easy program, contact Janet Buls, Health & and Wellness Coordinator, at jbuls@nei3a.org
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.

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