Innovations in Nutrition Programs and Services

Background and Goals

The Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program helps older Americans remain healthy and independent in their communities by providing meals and related services in a variety of community settings (including congregate facilities such as senior centers) and via home-delivery to older adults who are homebound due to illness, disability, or geographic isolation. In addition to the Title III program in states and territories, the OAA funds nutrition services for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. ACL funds services in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories through a network of 622 area agencies on aging and more than 7,000 local nutrition service providers through Title III.

Since 2017, the Administration on Aging (AoA) has funded “Innovations in Nutrition” grants that support the testing and documentation of innovative and promising practices. The goal of this program is to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and proven outcomes of nutrition services within the aging services network. Successful grants awarded under this program must have the potential for broad implementation throughout the aging services network and have demonstrated value, i.e., improvements in participant well-being, cost savings, etc. Innovations must target services to underserved older adults with greatest social and economic need, and individuals at risk for institutional placement, to permit such individuals to remain in home and community-based settings as indicated in the OAA.

It is critical that ACL work with the Aging Network (i.e., State Units on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), and local partners) to modernize these services to drive improved health outcomes for program recipients by promoting higher service quality, and increased program efficiency through innovative service delivery models.

Grantees are undertaking a variety of innovative activities under the scope of these awards, including: developing modified meals appropriate for reduced oral/dental functions,  collaborating with community health partners to increase referrals to the congregate meal sites, working with nutrition service providers to enhance the identification of, and support for older adults with elevated suicide risk or in mental health distress (ESR/MHD). and other nutrition related topics.

Beginning in 2020, grants were awarded via two funding options – Demonstration and Research. The Demonstration grants are intended to support the demonstration and documentation of innovative and promising practices that enhance the quality, effectiveness, and other proven outcomes of nutrition programs and services within the aging services network. The Research grants are intended to increase the evidenced based knowledge of OAA nutrition providers and translate the knowledge generated by this research into evidence-based models for delivering nutrition program services and programs at the community level.

FY 2019 Grants


Award Amount

CHEER, Inc – DE:

Includes daily contact with volunteers delivering HDMs (home delivered meals) as an opportunity to improve the wellbeing and quality of life/care of homebound seniors ages 60+. The goal of the three-year initiative is to strengthen local coordination of care for the most medically vulnerable seniors aging in place in Sussex County, Delaware, and prevent traumatic and costly medical and life-compromising crises.


Eastern Area Agency on Aging – ME:

Establishes and tests an innovative, technology-driven nutrition enhancement and self-management program for older adults with multiple chronic diseases. The goal of this three-year project is to improve the nutritional and health status of rural adults 60 and older with multiple chronic conditions immediately following hospital discharge.


Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston– TX:

Uses innovative technologies to enhance their Meals on Wheels program, connect seniors to vital healthcare services and provide a new framework to enhance collaborative partnerships to reduce a seniors’ reliance on in-hospital care.


LifeCare Alliance – OH:

In partnership with local fire departments and healthcare conglomerates, LifeCare Alliance will further an innovative network of referrals and information sharing for clients who frequently depend on emergency services. “Food 911: How Meals-on-Wheels Redefines Population Health” seeks to build a body of evidence supporting the positive outcomes of this holistic model with the goal of leveraging research to generate new sources of revenue.


Public Health Solutions – NY:

Adresses low income, food insecurity, and social isolation barriers by enhancing partnerships in East Harlem and creating a virtual network. The virtual network will look to ensure public housing residents and other low-income older adults are linked to nutritious food and other services to improve their food security, social connections, health outcomes, and the likelihood that they will age in place with dignity.


Texas Health and Human Services Commission – TX:

The Texas Congregate Meal Initiative will conduct research to identify causes of decline in congregate meal program participation by adults 60 and over. Based on that research, the Initiative will then provide select members of the aging network with business acumen and project development training, and the opportunity to pilot the program innovations with the support of a learning collaborative.


University of Utah – UT:

Will look to enhance collaborative community malnutrition transitions of care for recently discharged home delivered meal (HDM) recipients at risk for malnutrition through high-value nutrition care interventions.


FY 2018 Grants


Award Amount

Erie County Department of Senior Services – NY:

The Albany County Department for Aging (ACDFA) and Erie County Department of Senior Services (ECDSrS) will initiate a technology driven congregate dining program including a restaurant dining program to current service models.



Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc – GA:

The Atlanta Regional Commission (Atlanta Area Agency on Aging), in partnership with affiliate nutrition service (NS) providers and Georgia State University researchers, will work to enhance the identification of, and support for older adults with elevated suicide risk or in mental health distress (ESR/MHD).


AgeOptions, Inc – IL:

The goal of this project is to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity and increase the likelihood that patients experiencing food insecurity and/or are at nutrition risk will receive and act upon referrals to community-based resources. This will be done by 1) implementing a closed- loop referral system between healthcare providers and nutrition providers; 2) increasing referrals from healthcare providers to nutrition programs; and 3) increasing patient access to and utilization of nutrition programs, benefit programs (e.g. SNAP, Medicaid, etc.), and evidence-based wellness

programs (e.g. CDSME, A Matter of Balance).


The Carter Burden Network For the Aging, Inc – NY:

The goal of the project is to reduce the level of cardiovascular risk among seniors attending senior centers by addressing highly prevalent uncontrolled high BP through introduction of an innovative multi-component intervention centered on evidence- based approaches to the delivery of nutritional services, with supporting elements of education and improved self-efficacy, designed with generalizability and broad adoption in mind.


Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County – IN:

This project will establish an innovative frozen meal delivery program for seniors age 60 and up, and develop a website application for ordering a week’s worth of frozen meals at a time. The goal of the Meals at Home quality improvement project is

to determine the effectiveness of this innovative model for ordering and preparing food for seniors.


FY 2017 Grants


Award Amount

Department on Aging - Iowa:

Aimed to improve health outcomes of participants in the Linn County Innovations in Nutrition Program by promoting higher service quality. Objectives include collaborating with community health partners to increase referrals to the congregate meal sites; increasing the availability and variety of evidence-based health promotion programs at the sites; and providing chronic disease-specific nutrition education.


LiveOn - NY:

Used an existing city-wide data collection system to address oral disease and ability to eat among homebound older adults. Objectives include developing and delivering modified meals appropriate for reduced oral/dental function; and testing the utility of oral health items included in the Senior Tracking Analysis and Reporting System to identify clients in need of modified meals.


Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania - PA:

Used the program “Taking Charge of Diabetes” to increase knowledge about healthy eating and diabetes management. The Taking Charge program aims to help people self-manage their Type-2 diabetes to decrease their diabetes-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits.


Department of Aging - Maryland:

Introduced evidence-based practices, cost-cutting measures, innovative meal products, and efficient service delivery methods to address the epidemic of older adult malnutrition. Objectives include improving quality within the statewide delivery system by creating new medically tailored meal packages and meal delivery mechanisms for patients transitioning from hospital to home. The project also will establish an evidence-based framework for a new malnutrition education program.


University of Utah - Utah:

Developed a high-quality malnutrition home visitation pilot program for home- delivered meal recipients. Objectives include providing community-focused malnutrition training from a person- and family-centered perspective; identifying nutrition indices related to functionality, quality of life, ability to age-in-place, and hospital readmission; and creating personalized nutrition care plans.


 Alliance of Area Agencies on Aging - Missouri:

Used an advanced data-card technology to improve the service, delivery, and cost-effectiveness of congregate nutrition programming for older people at high risk of malnutrition. The technology will track member participation, and offer interactive feedback, personal nutrition information, and health management advice.

For home delivered meals, the program will use in-home, artificial intelligence-enabled “smart” speakers to improve the service, delivery, and cost-effectiveness of the in-home nutrition program for older people at high risk of malnutrition. The speakers will reduce access barriers to good nutrition by opening up numerous nutrition choices. They are also highly programmable, and community partners will install code that facilitates communication and food ordering through local food pantries, all through simple voice commands by the client. Creating grocery lists, browsing and ordering food items, and arranging

for delivery to the home are examples of services. After the client communicates the food order to the pantry, the volunteer network or contract delivery service transports the food items to the home.


National Resource Center for Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA)

AoA funds the National Resource Center for Nutrition and Aging (NRCNA)  to build the capacity of the aging services network to provide nutrition services for both current and future older adult populations integrated into a home- and community-based service system and provide training and technical assistance to the aging network regarding nutrition services. The purpose of the NRCNA is to modernize the provision of senior nutrition services by providing tools and resources which promote program excellence, service quality, business acumen and models for social entrepreneurship. Additionally, the NRCNA works to enhance the aging service network’s knowledge regarding the role of nutrition services in health promotion and disease prevention, and the scientific and clinical evidence that support both healthy meals and other nutrition services. To access toolkits, webinar recordings, tip sheets, learning modules, and other online resources, go to

Last modified on 03/31/2020

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