Using Groceries and other Nutrition Services to Meet Senior Needs

The Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) of the Older Americans Act (OAA) is a unique federal program for older adults that offers nutritious meals, social opportunities of friendship, companionship, volunteerism, and a range of additional services that allow older adults to remain healthy and independent at home in their community. Congress places significant emphasis in the OAA on the provision of meals to older adults. OAA Title III-C Section 330 states the purposes of the SNP, which are to promote nutritional status, general health and well-being of older individuals. As stated OAA Title III-C Section 330 and supported by numerous studies, the SNP is more than food provision.

Because of the limited funding, coupled with existing plus new increases in food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger, and the fact that SNP meals alone may not meet all needs, Congress allows flexibility based on the needs of meal recipients – such as the provision of groceries.

A nutrition provider that is considering offering groceries should proceed with caution. Providing food such as groceries might be considered duplicative of other federal food assistance programs, which provide only food and be considered unnecessary by the Government Accountability Office. This document discusses these issues, when groceries might be appropriate, how they can be deployed during emergencies, and how NSIP funding can be leveraged.