Food nourishes so much more than the body, and in the WestMass ElderCare (WMEC) Nutrition Department, we truly take to heart our mission of “preserving the dignity, independence, and quality of life” of our consumers through food.
Improving Aging Adults’ Quality of Life
Human beings are social creatures, yet 38% of the seniors in western Massachusetts we serve live alone. Worse yet, COVID-19 has caused more isolation than ever. Thankfully, our services offer the opportunity for consumers to meet others in their community while “breaking bread” and enjoying a nourishing meal. We even provide connections for elders who cannot leave their homes. “Our Meals on Wheels Drivers provide a friendly face and warm smile to strengthen the bonds that we call community,” says WMEC’s Nutrition Operations Manager Kat Mangiafico.
In all we do in the Nutrition Department, we strive to make sure our consumers maintain their dignity. This includes everything from offering chopped meals for consumers with difficulty handling utensils to making the menus easier to read for consumers with vision difficulties.
“Each member of our Team has a unique ability to listen, empathize, and advocate for the individual needs of every person we encounter…It is an honor to work with such caring people, providing such an important service.” – Mary Wetzel, WMEC Nutrition Intake Coordinator
Maintaining Independence at Every Age
Proper nutrition can help older adults maintain their strength, reduce falls, heal faster, and decrease their risk of hospitalization/re-hospitalization. Nutrition also plays a role in supporting healthy cognition. Balanced, healthy meals are key in helping people maintain their independence at any age. In fact, 84% of consumers say receiving meals helps them live independently!
When looking at statistics, it’s easy to see the vital role WMEC plays in keeping aging parents, older adults, and people in need healthy and well. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of seniors in western Massachusetts say their home-delivered meal is their main meal of the day. With so many elders in our community relying on this service, we know we cannot let even a day go by without performing our duties. That’s why we’re proud to note that Nutrition Services has not missed one day of service delivery due to COVID-19 throughout 2020 and 2021, delivering over 450,000 meals to over 2,600 people in need.
What Makes a Meal Program – 2022 Updates
New Caterer: CW Resources
You asked, we listened! WestMass ElderCare switched to catering services provided by CW Resources (CWR) in late 2021. We are thrilled to be working with CWR, a caterer with a long history of preparing quality meals for consumers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Their chefs are from our community and have a passion for the meals they prepare for consumers. With daily positive feedback from those we help, we could not be happier with CW Resources and hope you are enjoying the new meals also.
The Nutritional Requirements You Need
WestMass ElderCare offers a variety of meal types to meet as many of our consumers’ food preferences and medical needs as possible.
Unless restricted by the requirements of a medical diet, the meals comply with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs’ (EOEA) nutrition requirements, including:
- One-third of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for the population aged 51 years+
- 15-21 g of protein in the entree
- Vitamin C and A food sources
- Fruit three times a week
- Daily bread (whole grain version three times per week)
- Low-fat milk every day
Because the needs and expectations of our consumers have changed over time, our program continually evolves based on consumer feedback. Through daily taste testing, we experience the meals as the consumer to see what is working and what needs improvement. We also send out a yearly survey to all consumers who receive meals, encouraging them to share feedback.
Want to share your thoughts on the meals? Call our Nutrition Department at 413-538-9020 ext. 313.
Join Our Community Table
The Community Table program is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and socialize with other local seniors while enjoying a freshly-prepared lunch. Previously known as congregate (group) meals, the program has been refreshed with even better meals and a new name: WestMass ElderCare Community Table. Although the daily Community Table meal is the same as the regular home-delivered lunch, Community Table meals sometimes offer a special treat, including a weekly soup or salad, Taco Tuesday Bar, or Soup Bar.
Community Table lunch meals are offered at the senior centers in South Hadley and Granby, and housing sites in Chicopee and Holyoke. For more information, contact the WMEC Nutrition Department at 413-538-9020 ext. 313.
A Taste of Home: Fernandez Restaurant Meals
We offer meals that our Latino community requests! Registered consumers can receive delicious and authentic Latino lunches at Fernandez Restaurant in Holyoke. Patrons can choose from a list of pre-approved options that comply with the nutrition requirements for seniors.
Home-Delivered Meals: Prepared Fresh by CW Resources
Enjoy a freshly-prepared, nutritious meal from the convenience of your home through the Home-Delivered Meals program. Drivers provide critical wellness checks to ensure the safety of participating elders, taking prompt action when they notice concerning changes in physical or mental health. Meals are delivered cold so consumers can warm and enjoy when ready to eat. Delivery times range from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Due to the large number of consumers, unfortunately, we can’t guarantee specific delivery times.
- Regular Lunch: no added salt (3 to 4 g sodium); these meals include an entree with protein, two sides, a dessert/fruit, milk, and bread. (Not a low sodium meal.)
- Latino Lunch: meals include authentic Latino foods like flan, green bananas, ground beef and plantains, yuca, malanga, pulled pork, soupy beans, yellow rice, and pigeon peas along with seasonings like Sofrito and Adobo.
- Cardiac Lunch: similar to Regular Lunch meals, this option does not exceed 500 mg sodium, 20 g total fat, and 6 g saturated fat. This meal also has a daily low sodium wheat bread slice, 1% milk, and low sodium dessert.
- Renal Lunch: similar to the Regular Lunch meals, the Renal meals contain 560 mg sodium or less, 800 mg potassium or less, and 300 mg phosphorus or less. Because of the dietary restrictions, these meals contain low-sodium white bread but do not include milk.
- Regular Supper: sandwich/salad-type options that are served cold and delivered at the time of the noon meal.
Meeting Everyone’s Dietary Needs: Other Meal Options
- Frozen Meals: delivered at the same time as caterer-prepared meals, these meals are meant to be eaten outside of regular lunch hours or on a different day than delivery. The Renal and Cardiac Meals are specially designed to meet the unique requirements of consumers on these diets.
- Renal Supper
- Cardiac Supper
- Weekend Lunch
- Weekend Cardiac Lunch
- Weekend Renal Lunch
- 7 Day Pack: 7 frozen meals, delivered together once a week
- Puree: the caterer freshly purees the meal of the day to pudding consistency. This meal type is appropriate for consumers requiring a dysphagia-level puree diet. Consumers can choose between the caterer-prepared Regular or Latino menu option, or request the medically tailored (Renal/Cardiac) option.
- Chopped: meals are cut by the caterer into bite-sized pieces to accommodate individuals with difficulty cutting up their food. These meals are not intended for difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Modified Dessert: one of the main menu types but with a sugar-free dessert
- 7 Day Shelf-Stable Meals: delivered once a year to eligible consumers. They are intended to be saved by the consumer and used if the meal program is closed due to inclement weather.
More Great Options Coming Soon!
In the next few months, we hope to introduce even more caterer-prepared options. Look for:
- Vegetarian Lunch: will follow the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which includes dairy and eggs but no meat, fish, or poultry
- Ground/Minced, Moist, Soft (International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative Level 5): appropriate for consumers that require a dysphagia-level diet
- Cardiac Supper: changing from frozen to caterer-prepared meals
More Than Meals: Other Nutrition Department Services
Healthy nutrition relies on much more than just the food put in the body. That’s why, in addition to nourishing meals, we offer a bevy of nutrition-related events, workshops, and educational opportunities:
- Nutrition Counseling: in-home or phone nutrition counseling provided to eligible consumers upon request by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Joanna Martin
- Monthly Fun Events: look for advertising for the event of the month. Past programs have included Nutrition Training, Nutrition Jeopardy, a healthy cooking demonstration, and training on nutrition-related topics.
- Nutrition Education: consumers getting Home Delivered Meals or Community Table Meals receive a monthly newsletter on the back of their menu with nutrition education on a range of topics, from “Nutrition and COVID” to “Recipes for Using Leftover Bread or Milk from the Meals.”
Learn more by checking out our Nutrition Services page or calling our Nutrition Department at 413-538-9020 ext. 313.
Spring Spinach and Strawberry Salad (Serves 2)
- ½ bunch of spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar or sugar substitute to taste
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ tablespoon sesame seeds
- ¾ teaspoon poppy seeds
- In a large bowl, toss together washed spinach and strawberries.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the other ingredients. Pour over the spinach and strawberries. Toss to coat. Enjoy.
235 calories; protein 3.6g; carbohydrates 22.8g; fat 15.9g; sodium 69.3mg. Full Nutrition
Recipe revised from allrecipes.com