Fifty-eight years ago today, on January 13, 1964, Bob Dylan released his famous song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” For any of us old enough to remember that day, we can say that “indeed they were.” We knew it, applauded it, and enthusiastically sang along. Whether any of you were around then or not, it is still true. Today all of us can say with certainly, “indeed they are.” They always are. It’s a simple and indisputable fact. Here is another one: with change come challenges – and the need to be equipped to meet them.
That last statement is true for both our personal lives and our professional ones. It doesn’t apply only in the sciences and those other technical areas or professions where the whole world can see changes occurring at warp speed. It is also true of so-called “nutrition assistance programs” like congregate and home-delivered meals designed to assist older adults and support their nutritional health. Many of you reading this post, who have made those programs your profession, will doubtless agree. Likely some of you will add that you have also benefitted immensely from on-the-job training that working in the real world brings. We agree that you surely have, and in our interactions with you over the years we have observed and applauded that knowledge. So we trust that you will take this next observation – namely, that while that is good, more is better– in the respectful and supportive spirit in which it is given. In this context, we don’t necessarily mean just more of the same…more on-the-job training (o-j-t), that is.
That opinion is not ours alone. In fact a report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), based on its study of a sample of senior nutrition programs across several states and issued at the end on 2019, found that while o-j-t was good it probably was not sufficient. The report’s title reflected that clearly and succinctly: “Nutrition Assistance Programs: Agencies Could Do More to Help Address the Nutritional Needs of Older Adults.” The title is not an indictment; it is a recognition of the immense challenges that such programs face. For example, the report specifically acknowledges the difficulties caused by increased demand for services, the weight of waiting lists, and the challenge of attempting to tailor meals to meet certain and diverse dietary needs. The GAO’s primary role was to analyze and diagnose the situation.
Ours at NFESH is not focused on diagnosing the issue or identifying the problems. It is far different. Our attention and mission are directed toward assisting community-based senior nutrition programs in addressing their inevitable challenges. That means helping them to understand changing needs and adapt to them in ways that will assist them in succeeding in meeting their goals. For the past several years we have been working to create means to do that. We call it the Senior Center(ed) Community College (SCCC). Its curriculum covers what we believe to be the core subjects and issues nutrition programs need to address now and will continue to moving forward in this new year and decade. To build this, we have engaged and relied on experts in a number of relevant fields. As this new year progresses we will be making more information about this SCCC available.
For now, we believe that we can all agree with Dylan. “The Times They Are A-Changin.” That said, to respond to those changes we need to do more than just sing along. We need to make some changes too. It begins with acknowledging the situation, but it is solved by education and action. NFESH is committed to continue — with renewed vigor and expanded opportunities –supporting and assisting community-based nutrition programs in succeeding at both. That’s something that will never change.