While proper nutrition and good healthy food is essential to the health of all people, seniors are at particularly high risk of being malnourished. It is estimated that approximately 1/3 of senior Canadians are at nutritional risk (at risk of being malnourished),  and the research shows that when a senior is malnourished, they are 50 percent more likely to be hospitalized.  This creates significant health challenges for the senior and costs to the health care system – the Canadian Malnutrition Taskforce has estimated that a malnourished patient costs an additional $1,500-$2,000 due to longer stays, resulting in additional costs to the Canadian healthcare system of approximately $1.56 to $2.1 billion per year.
- Meal services in senior and community centres
- Nutrition education
- Access to fresh fruits and vegetables
- Meal delivery services
- Community meals
- Community kitchens
- Community gardens
In addition to providing nutritional benefits, nutritional support programs provide opportunities for social interaction and connection, including all the health benefits that come from reducing social isolation. In fact, food is often used as a way of encouraging and promoting participation in other programs offered by the community-based seniors’ services sector. Research by the United Way highlights the role food plays, including serving as an incentive for attending, fostering social interaction, promoting a healthy lifestyle, introducing new cultures, increasing food literacy, bringing people together and creating a sense of community.
In a survey conducted by the Raising the Profile Project of Better at Home site coordinators from across the province, nutritional supports were identified as a key service gap for seniors, as these services are not offered by Better at Home programs and health authorities do not usually provide these services. Nutritional supports were considered to be especially important for low-income seniors.
In the following program profiles and summaries, we provide examples of nutritional supports offered by community-based seniors’ services that incorporate social connectedness.
Profiles and Summaries of Specific Food Programs
Program Profile: Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre Food Services Program (North Vancouver)
Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre is a centre for older adults living in the North Vancouver area that offers a range of programs and activities. One of their core programs is the Food Services Program, which offers hot lunches (Mon-Fri) and snacks/drinks throughout the day. Read the full profile here.
Program Summary: Granisle Healthy Lunches Program (Village of Granisle)
The Granisle Healthy Lunches Program was a hugely popular program that ran for two years (2014-2016) and provided community lunches to approximately 60-75 people (most of whom were seniors) every four to six weeks in the small Village of Granisle. Read the full profile here.
Program Summary: Pender Island Community Gathering (Lunch Program)
The Pender Island Community Gathering has been providing a by-donation lunch at the Community Hall on Pender Island once a week since September 2016. Though not exclusively focused on seniors, about half of the lunch participants are 55 and older. In addition to the food, the lunch includes entertainment (usually live music), group activities and connections to community resources. Read the full profile here.
 Ramage-Morin, P., & Garriguet, D. (2013). Nutritional Risk Among Older Canadians. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2013003/article/11773-eng.pdf
 Buys, D. R., Roth, D. L., Ritchie, C. S., Sawyer, P., Allman, R. M., Funkhouser, E. M., & … Locher, J. L. (2014). Nutritional Risk and Body Mass Index Predict Hospitalization, Nursing Home Admissions, and Mortality in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Results From the UAB Study of Aging With 8.5 Years of Follow-Up. Journals Of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences, 69(9), 1146-1153.
 Curtis, L. J., Bernier, P., Jeejeebhoy, K., Allard, J., Duerksen, D., Gramlich, L., & … Keller, H. (2016). Costs of hospital malnutrition. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2016.09.009
 Randhawa, G. (2015). Let’s Eat: Role of Food Provision During Social Support Programming. United Way of the Lower Mainland: Burnaby, B.C.