Nutrition Service Programs (NSP), administered by the Administration on Aging (AOA) within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under the Older Americans Act (OAA), represents a key component of America’s strategy for ensuring that the health and social needs of older adults are adequately met. By promoting access to nutritious meals, facilitating social contact, supporting family caregivers, and helping older adults maintain their dignity in their homes and communities, the NSP fits squarely within the strategic goals of the AOA to rebalance long-term care provision away from institutionalization and toward home- and community-based services.

As part of its ongoing efforts to support NSP planning, improve program efficiency, and strengthen program effectiveness, ACL contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the AOA Nutrition Programs Evaluation. The three-part evaluation consists of (1) a process evaluation of program administration and service delivery, (2) a meal cost analysis, and (3) an evaluation of the impact of the program on client outcomes. This report describes the findings from the meal cost analysis. Overall, findings from the AOA Nutrition Programs Evaluation meal costs analysis align with those of the last major analysis of NSP meal costs, conducted in 1995 (Ponza et al. 1996). While the composition of total average meal costs and the cost-efficiency related to particular program characteristics have not changed much over time, producing meals for the NSP appears to have become more expensive overall.