From time to time in the past, we used this space to report on the progress of the first nine congregate nutrition programs (CNPs) in Georgia that participated in NFESH’s What A Waste program. The results, although varying in degree from one CNP to another, were successful enough overall to make the case – presented in the form of unassailable and impartial data – for an expansion of the initiative to other CNPs in the following year.
To put it another way, we are giving credit where it belongs. Robyn Crittenden, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) recognized a good thing when she saw it. She engaged NFESH to implement What A Waste at an additional 27 CNPs throughout the state in the fiscal year just completed. That was a substantial expansion. It gave credence to the belief that more of a good thing could benefit vulnerable seniors in Georgia, and that the challenge should be met head on.
What is the challenge? The one that every state confronts, namely, reducing the number of older adults who suffer from “hunger and food insecurity.” CNPs are charged with taking on that challenge as part of their mission. When they do so with determination and focus, they can contribute in a meaningful way to nudging the needle in the right direction.
Is What A Waste a panacea? None of us would claim that. Both DHS and NFESH know that there is no easy answer, no single project to reduce senior hunger. But we are absolutely convinced that providing more of a good thing in Georgia has been a reasonable starting point. The facts bear it out. Below we provide a snapshot of some results from the 27 CNPs comparing their final results to the findings of the initial baseline measuring period, which were recorded at the beginning of the implementation of What A Waste:
- 10 CNPs reduced their pan waste (food ordered or prepared and not served) by 50 percent or more.
- 11 CNPs reduced their plate waste (food discarded from seniors’ plates) by 20 percent or more.
- 21 CNPs had more than 95 percent ordering efficiency at the end of the project, meaning that the number of meals ordered closely aligned with the number of seniors served.
- 14 CNPs improved client intake of key nutrients by at least one nutrient.
- Five CNPs improved client intake by four nutrients.
- Four CNPs increased average clients’ voluntary contributions by more than 30 cents per meal served.
All of those results add up to more of a good thing. And, with more resources freed up, CNPs are better able to accomplish the purposes the Older Americans Act envisions for them.