JFS Perspectives

Thursday, September 27, 2018

JFS at the JCC: Fighting Hunger and Food Insecurity for Older Adults

JFS at the JCC: Fighting Hunger and Food Insecurity for Older Adults

In the United States, one in six adults over 60 faces food insecurity, meaning they don’t have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

The health and mobility changes that can accompany aging can put older adults at increased risk of food insecurity. Faced with increased costs for food, housing, medication, and utilities, older adults on fixed incomes must prioritize their limited funds. Often, food is among the first sacrifices. Many will choose to skip meals or purchase lower-quality food to pay other bills. Those who can afford the food they need may be unable to drive, navigate the grocery store, carry bags into their homes, or cook without assistance. Poor access to nutrition, in turn, makes individuals more susceptible to illnesses and conditions that limit their mobility and ability to care for themselves.

Social isolation can add to food insecurity. People who live alone are more likely to skip meals and less likely to eat nutritionally rich meals. Sometimes, this stems from a lack of motivation to cook complex, nutritious meals. Other times, adults who live alone lack the ability to cook for themselves, and don’t have a partner or housemate to provide cooking assistance. According to the American College of Nutrition, food shared with others actually tastes better. And it’s not just about nutrition for the body. Eating alone for almost every meal increases loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression.

JFS at the JCC mealThrough the congregate meal program at JFS at the JCC, Jewish Family Service aims to address the dual challenges of food insecurity and social isolation. Three times a week, older adults come together at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center to enjoy nutritious kosher meals prepared by Shalom Park and served by staff and volunteers from Jewish Family Service. These meals, funded by Volunteers of America and JEWISHcolorado, provide a minimum of 1/3 of the daily nutrition for an adult over 60. Strict guidelines ensure that these meals provide the basic nutrition older adults need.

The community setting provides a place for adults to socialize as they enjoy their meal and, often, JFS at the JCC staff schedule educational and social programming before and after the meals. Founded in Jewish values, this program also provides a source of spiritual support for Jewish participants, providing the only congregate meal site in the Denver metro area for fresh cooked kosher meals.

The meals are offered at no charge, relying on donations from participants and community members. Many adults who enjoy meals at the JCC make regular donations and, in fact, JFS at the JCC has one of the highest donation rates of any congregate meal program in the Denver metro area.

For those who cannot physically attend meals at the JCC, Kosher Meals on Wheels provides similar support through meals delivered to the home. These meals, delivered daily, Monday through Friday, include a daily check-in from a JFS staff person.

JFS at the JCC serves congregate kosher meals Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 11:45 at the Jewish Community Center. For more information, contact Suzi Malman, JFS at the JCC Program Coordinator, at 303.316.6358.

Buffy SophinosBy Buffy Sophinos, Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center Care Manager 

Buffy Sophinos is a Colorado native who has spent her career focused on senior services. She has worked at two assisted-living communities, an elder law firm, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. She received a master’s degree in Social Work in 2010 and a juris doctor in 2011 from the Sturm College of Law of University of Denver, before joining JFS in 2012. Buffy oversees JFS at the JCC and Kosher Meals on Wheels. Buffy manages a variety of projects designed to help older adults age in the environment of their choosing. She helps clients make choices that best support their needs and desires to ensure that each transition is as peaceful and smooth as possible.