Photograph of Age Well staff member providing presentation on 3SquaresVT and Crop Cash

Spotlighting Hunger and Older Vermonters During 2023 Malnutrition Week

From September 18th to September 22nd, 2023, groups nationwide shine a spotlight on one of the most pressing health issues: malnutrition. The annual Malnutrition Awareness Week provides a platform to raise awareness, engage in meaningful discussions, and take action to combat this silent crisis that affects millions worldwide.

Keep reading to hear more about this important issue from our Director of Nutrition and Wellness, Chris Moldovan, RD, CD, FAND. Chris has worked at Age Well for many years and as a Registered Dietitian for over 30 years serving older Vermonters. The Nutrition programming at Age Well focuses on providing delicious, nutritious meals to older adults and addressing food insecurity.

Understanding Malnutrition

Malnutrition is not limited to hunger and starvation; it encompasses a range of nutritional imbalances that can affect both developing and developed countries. There are two main types of malnutrition:

Undernutrition: This occurs when a person does not receive adequate nutrients, leading to stunted growth, weakened immune systems, and a higher risk of diseases. Undernutrition is often associated with poverty and lack of access to nutritious food.

Overnutrition: Refers to excessive intake of nutrients, particularly in the form of unhealthy, calorie-dense foods. It can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and various other health problems.

Malnutrition’s Impact on Vermont

Malnutrition has far-reaching consequences for individuals, communities, and entire nations. Older adults, along with minority populations, are the populations that statistically shoulder the highest incidences of the most severe chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease that are impacted by nutrition. Illness, injury, and malnutrition can result in the loss of lean body mass and can lead to complications that impact good patient health outcomes. Complications might include surgery recovery, illness, or disease. Older adults often lose lean body mass at a faster rate and to a greater extent than younger adults. Nutrition is a human right and social determinant of health and malnutrition was worsened by the global COVID-19 health pandemic that negatively impacted disparities, inequities and social isolation and is further compounded by food insecurity.

How Age Well Helps Seniors Affected by Malnutrition

There are many ways Age Well works to help meet the nutritional needs of older adults in Northwestern Vermont. Our team walks people through available benefits such as 3SquaresVT, provides home delivered meals through our Meals on Wheels program, information about the commodity food program (a monthly box of food delivered to a nearby location for older Vermonters to pick up), volunteers who assist with grocery shopping, Community Meals, Grab and Go meals, and special meal events featuring a luncheon as well as entertainment.

Meals are created to meet the dietary and food safety guidelines required by the Older Americans Act and provides 33 1/3% of the nutritional needs of older Americans. A typical meal consists of 2-3 ounces of protein, complex carbohydrate (such as sweet potato, rice or pasta), one and a half cups of fruit or vegetables, a grain (preferably whole grain), milk and dessert (often includes fruit). Salt is not added to foods during cooking, though in some foods it may naturally occur.

The Helpline is staffed by our Information and Assistance Coordinators who are familiar with state benefit programs and all programs pertaining to older Vermonters, they are available to answer your questions, and connect you with other Age Well services or external services such as food shelves and community organizations that may be able to help in other ways. The Case Management team provides individualized assistance to help older Vermonter staying in their homes and the SHIP program can help people better understand their insurance benefits and needs to help them save money.

Additionally, Age Well has been serving on the Older Vermonter Nutrition coalition since its inception in 2018 collaborating with partners across the state to provide resources and education to Older Vermonters about food access.

Photograph of Age Well staff member providing presentation on 3SquaresVT and Crop Cash

Taking Action During Malnutrition Week 2023

Malnutrition Week is a chance to take meaningful action. Here are some ways individuals, communities, and organizations can get involved:

Spread Awareness: Use social media to raise awareness about malnutrition’s impact and the importance of proper nutrition.

Educate Yourself: Learn more about malnutrition, its causes, and its consequences. Knowledge is the first step toward change.

Support Local Initiatives: Many grassroots organizations work tirelessly to combat malnutrition. Consider volunteering your time or donating to these causes.

Advocate for Policy Change: Advocate for policies that promote food security, nutrition education, and access to healthy foods. Contact your representatives and join advocacy groups.

Promote Healthy Eating Habits: Encourage friends and family to make healthier food choices. Share recipes and cooking tips that prioritize nutritious, well-balanced meals.

Malnutrition Week 2023 is a crucial opportunity for individuals and communities to come together to address a global health crisis. By raising awareness, supporting local initiatives, advocating for policy changes, and promoting healthy eating habits, we can take meaningful steps toward reducing malnutrition’s impact on individuals and societies worldwide. Let us use this week as a starting point for lasting change and a healthier, more equitable future for all!

Want to learn more about how Age Well can help you or a loved one access nutrition or other services? Call the Helpline at 1-800-642-5119.