As part of Nutrition Month, we want to highlight the positive impact of Second Harvest Food Bank’s Senior Nutrition Classes.
One morning prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at the FiftyForward Bordeaux Center in the Bordeaux neighborhood of Nashville, 15 seniors assemble to see a free nutrition class and cooking demonstration. The topic: healthy and unhealthy fats. During the class, the seniors learn about the different sources of fat and how they can positively and negatively affect health.
The class is taught by Caroline Pullen, the Registered Dietitian at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Each day, Caroline works to ensure those served by Second Harvest lead the healthy, active lifestyles they deserve. Whether through nutrition lessons; healthy, cost-effective recipes; or cooking classes – she provides resources for those struggling with hunger to eat better and make their money go further, including and especially seniors.
“Older adults need more protein, fiber, calcium and vitamin D than the general population,” says Caroline. “Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases.”
According to Caroline, health experts believe that up to 50 percent of adults over the age of 60 are malnourished or at-risk of becoming malnourished. Malnourishment – which occurs when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients – weakens the immune system, depletes muscle mass and increases the risk of falls, hospitalizations and even death.
Caroline also says that chronic health conditions can often be both a cause and effect of food insecurity for seniors, who can oftentimes live off limited, fixed incomes.
“Poor health leads to increased healthcare costs and decreased employability; therefore, leaving less money for food,” says Caroline. “Food insecurity leads to poor nutrition. Poor nutrition overtime increases risk the of disease and makes managing diseases more difficult. Many seniors are on a fixed income, so an unexpected medical bill can quickly cause them to become food insecure.”
By providing nutrition education and access to healthy foods, Caroline says Second Harvest is helping senior clients incorporate healthier foods into their diets to meet their changing dietary needs.
According to Patricia Malone, Assistant Center Director at FiftyForward Bordeaux, the classes are making a positive and lasting impact for seniors.
“For a lot of our members, they don’t have access to the most up-to-date nutritional information,” she says. “This gives them the tools they need to eat right and live longer, healthier lives.”
As the Senior Nutrition Class concludes at FiftyForward Bordeaux, the seniors receive a snack of heart-healthy banana oat muffins along with the recipe, so they can make them at home.
For senior and Second Harvest client Carolyn Hall, 72, the class is about more than just nutrition. She says it’s about community.
“We are getting older, but we are not old,” says Carolyn. “Second Harvest truly serves this community from the food for our bodies to the knowledge for our minds. We are blessed to have them.”