By David V. Hunter, President & CEO, Mary Wade
During the summer I set up about five pots of tomato plants on the porch to The Hutch where my office is located on campus. The staff and residents check their progress and we all take pride in watching the vines stretch to the sun. The yellow blossoms give way to tiny green bulbs which grow into luscious red, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes. Biting into these precious fruits is the icing on the proverbial cake.
The harvest is shared with staff and residents. I am reminded how special having fresh fruits and vegetables can be for all of us, especially for our seniors.
Good and wholesome nutrition is a major component in our overall health and well-being, especially our elder community. But for many, especially for our most vulnerable older adults, access to affordable and well balanced meals is a daily challenge.
According to Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of agriculture, research shows: Compared to younger adults, older adults are at a greater risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as health conditions related to changes in bone and muscle mass, such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia, respectively. Older adults should follow a healthy dietary pattern because of the changing dietary needs and heightened risk of malnutrition that occurs with age. Older adults generally have lower calorie needs but similar or even increased nutrient needs compared to younger adults.
At Mary Wade, we take high quality care seriously and that includes each resident’s nutritional needs, eating habits and medical restrictions. Our Food Services team, led by Laurene Ortowski, assesses each individual’s unique nutritional needs in consultation with the entire health care team of nurses, therapists, social workers and physicians.
We purchase the freshest and highest quality groceries and partner with our suppliers to source local ingredients and produce whenever possible.
“Older adults need to eat a balanced diet that provides the proper nutrients,” says Laurene. “These nutrients help to obtain the energy their body needs on a daily basis, for movement, and to replace cells involved in rebuilding muscles, bone and tissue throughout the body. They also help to prevent or treat many diseases such as anemia, malnutrition, cardiovascular disease, dementia, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. Proper nutrients also help to heal the body during an illness or an injury requiring rehabilitation services; and more nutrients are needed to help rebuild muscles and bone, or during wound healing to build new tissue.”
At Mary Wade, we are huge advocates of “Farm to Table”, a clever phrase to describe sourcing food from local farms rather than distribution companies. Wherever we can, we try to introduce produce grown locally.
We are lucky to be in a community that values and supports local growers and entrepreneurs. Farm markets, community gardens, and “green” program initiatives abound. Gather New Haven counts four community gardens in Fair Haven alone. Some of our Boardman residents have volunteered at the local gardens where they work alongside students and neighbors in planting seedlings and harvesting the fruits of their labors. City Seed schedules farm markets throughout the Greater New Haven area. Every summer, our residents enjoy visiting the market located at Quinnipiac River Park less than a mile from Mary Wade and easily accessible via our own Mary Wade vans.
Mary Wade is an active partner in the community in which our residents live. As a member of the Fair Haven Community Management Team and the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association, we play a collaborative role with our neighborhood partners to do whatever it takes to make sure the seniors in our community have access to healthy meals. Most recently, we have partnered with the New Haven Department for Elderly Services to deliver meals to homebound seniors throughout Fair Haven and beyond.
Mary Wade’s Adult Day Center (ADC) is enrolled in the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP is a federal program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program is a congregate meal program and provides nutritious meals and snacks to infants and children in child care centers, family day care homes, and emergency shelters and snacks and suppers to children participating in eligible at-risk afterschool care programs. This program for Adult Day Centers such as at Mary Wade, provides a reduced price, or free breakfast and hot lunch based on income guidelines for the program.
Alexandra Straub, the Director of Mary Wade’s ADC told me that during the pandemic when our ADC was either closed or opened to limited capacity, we were able to still provide meals to our homebound members. The CACFP recognized the need for the elderly population also needing meals due to being isolated at home & not attending Day Centers. The CACFP decided to extend the program to our ADC members who have been unable to attend the ADC on site and remain homebound.
“We continue to provide meals based on the CACFP food guidelines,” says Alexandra. “The meals are allowed to be dropped off to the individuals already enrolled and are part of the Mary Wade ADC.”
Ensuring the daily nutritional requirements for a health lifestyle contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of each of our elderly residents and clients. We do whatever it takes.
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