With this blog NFESH introduces the first of a new series of guest bloggers. In the past few posts, our guests’ columns have focused on the work that their organizations perform in the areas of aging, hunger relief, waste reduction and the like. We will feature more of those in the future. Today, however, we are making a new kind of introduction — a personal look at the people who work in those fields. They are are our colleagues, our partners, our allies, people who serve people and we thought it would be interested to hear firsthand what drew them to this cause and what has kept them there. So we created a series of questions and sent them to our colleagues across the country.
Today we kick off the series with the words of Jeff Duncan from Nevada.
How long have you been involved with senior nutrition programs?
I have been a Unit Chief for the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division for over 6 years. During this time, I have been involved with senior nutrition program partners who provide home-delivered groceries, food pantry, congregate meals and home delivered meals. While I have only been involved with senior nutrition programs for a short period of time, I have a passion to improve access to nutrition programs and I am driven to end hunger for older adults.
What drew you to that and what has kept you there?
The people we serve and the wonderful Nevada partners who provide these crucial services is what drives me. I often tell people that I was put on this earth to fight for those who cannot always fight for themselves and challenge the system to make change to improve services.
What have you seen change over the years? What have you seen improve?
I have had the pleasure of seeing innovations implemented in Nevada. Specifically, home-delivered groceries. I love this program because it allows for person-centered choice on food options and goes beyond the traditional brick and mortar food pantry program! In addition, due to outstanding efforts from our community partners, in the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session the state added over a million dollars to support an increase in the home-delivered fixed-fee meal rate and removed some older adults from the waitlist. There is similar legislation that has been introduced in the current session as well.
What still needs changing – not just locally but nationally as well?
In Nevada, we have too many food deserts, wait lists, lack of congregate sites and a serious deficiency in services for rural/frontier Nevadans. Overall, I’d say I hope to see a greater emphasis on consumer choice and control. There are two specific items that come to mind.
While many congregate meal programs are beginning to shift their service models to cater to the baby boomer generation, there is still a lot of work to do. We know keeping older adults engaged in their community leads to more positive outcomes through the aging process, but our senior center numbers are dwindling. It’s time to be creative!
Second, I’d like to see the implementation of more innovative ideas such as home-delivered groceries, digital food pantries, waste management programs, and culinary programs that can help increase access and utilization of food that is being provided to older adults.
How do you find the seniors you serve or how do they find you?
Our community partners are often the cornerstone of their communities, especially in our rural/frontier areas. As such, older adults gravitate towards them. For our home-delivered meal programs referrals come from a variety of sources including hospital discharge planners, other local community services partners and state programs such as elder protective services.
Speaking of food…what is your favorite food?
There’s so many! I love to BBQ so anything from my Trager Smoker Grill. I also like Italian and Mexican food. Trust me, the list goes on and on!
What is your favorite vacation spot?
The Bahamas, no question. I love the crystal-clear blue ocean and food. I went there with my parents when I was younger and just recently got a chance to go back. I love the Bahamas!
Do you like baseball or football? (Enid wants to know).
Both! But if I had to pick, baseball. I love watching baseball live. There is something special about the sounds and smells of the ballpark. I am fascinated by the history of baseball and the skill it takes to play the game. I am originally from Kansas, so I have to say Go Royals!