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Innovations in Nutrition Programs and Services

Since 2017, ACL has funded “Innovations in Nutrition” (INNU) grants to support testing and documenting innovative and promising practices in state nutrition programs. Authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA), the program aims to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and outcomes of senior nutrition programs and services. As with all OAA-funded nutrition services, the ultimate intent is to reduce hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition; promote socialization; and enhance the health and well-being of older adults.

Successful grants awarded under this program have demonstrated value, such as improvements in participant well-being; target services to older adults with the greatest social and economic needs; and have the potential for broad implementation throughout the aging services network.

INNU projects currently funded under this program cover a variety of innovative activities, including developing modified meals appropriate for people with reduced oral/dental functions, collaborating with community health partners to increase referrals to congregate meal sites, working with nutrition service providers to improve identification of older adults who are in mental health distress and/or at increased risk of suicide so they can be connected to support, and more.

INNU Awards

FY 2023 Grants

ACL awarded a total of $3,319,084 for the first year of six five-year research grants that will 1) increase collective knowledge about nutrition, effective senior nutrition program interventions, and related issues; and 2) translate knowledge into evidence-based models for delivering nutrition services.

ACL also awarded a total of $813,557 for the first year of six three-year grant projects to replicate and sustain previously successful grant models with diverse populations. Projects include addressing community-based malnutrition, revitalizing congregate meal sites, and addressing elevated suicide risk/mental health distress through volunteer training.

Research Grantee and Project Description FY23 Award
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (IL). Conduct a study to test a new model for continuity of nutrition care for malnutrition treatment across settings and determine if it improves food security and quality of life in older adults. The project includes patient identification, cross-referral, data reporting, and communication processes from acute care hospitals to community-based Title III-C senior meal organizations. $599,860
Allegheny County (PA). Conduct a study with the goal to improve social connection and decrease isolation and food insecurity, while helping older adults with nutrition-sensitive chronic health conditions (hypertension) to increase well-being and self-reported health. $568,069
Community Market of Pottawatomie County (OK). Evaluate the impact and sustainability of a nutrition intervention for developing a sustainable and multi-faceted intervention that addresses health and health-related barriers to wellness for Title III-C1 eligible seniors in rural Oklahoma and 2) evaluate the impact and implementation of the intervention. $600,000
Georgia State University (GA). Conduct two studies to evaluate a novel approach to integrating mental health services within the home-delivered meal and congregate meal programs. The project also enhances the socialization infrastructure of OAA Title IIIC programs by developing a new staff role to coordinate screening and access to innovations and implementing a strategy for matching older adults to a screening and referral pathway, enabling them to benefit from mental health services. $599,973
New York City Department for the Aging (NY). Conduct a study to evaluate the impact of nutrition, socialization, and health on older adults of person-centered, café-style dining programs which offer nutrition education and health promotion activities at pop-up sites in eighteen different neighborhoods.  $400,373
University of Connecticut (CT). Conduct a study to implement and evaluate an enhanced home-delivered meals service delivery approach that includes community health worker interactions and supplemental healthy grocery bags to address diet quality, food and nutrition security, loneliness, and health-related quality of life for older adults. $550,809

Replication Grants

Replication Grantee and Project Description FY23 Award
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. (FL). Implement a café model in two locations, reaching Hispanic and non-English speaking communities. Conduct focus groups to develop adaptations for cultural specificity and establish fidelity that ensures ongoing quality. $150,000
Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities (DE). Implement a café model in one or more locations, reaching Hispanic and non-English speaking communities. Integrate culturally appropriate meals with evidence-based programs and embed Information and Assistance which provides referrals to benefits and other community-based services. $149,544
Kentucky Department for Aging and Independent Living (KY). Project will use the evidence-based suicide intervention ASIST Training, created by to train volunteers and staff working with home-delivered meal clients in 15 Area Agencies on Aging. At-risk clients will be referred to Crisis Diverters team and the project will create a statewide mental health resource directory. $150,000
MetroHealth System (OH). Project will establish a community-clinical partnership to address older adults at risk for malnutrition. Includes transportation to address social isolation, connection to benefits, and community-based resources, and will be implemented through an enhanced e-referral system that includes nutrition, health promotion and other services offered by area agencies on aging. $149,752
Project Open Hand (CA). Project will use the evidence-based suicide intervention ASIST Training, created by to train volunteers and staff working with home-delivered and congregate meal clients. Interventions also include referral for nutrition counseling and the training will be integrated into ongoing onboarding and training for staff and volunteers. $65,742
Texas A&M University (TX). Establish a learning collaborative capacity-building approach to Implement a café model, using a strong quality assurance framework. Assist sites with business planning for sustainability. $148,519


FY 2022 Grants
ACL awarded a total of $1,448,797 for the first year of three five-year research grants that will 1) increase collective knowledge about nutrition, effective senior nutrition program interventions, and related issues; and 2) translate knowledge into evidence-based models for delivering nutrition services.

FY 2022 research grantees will either 1) demonstrate the impact that congregate meal programs have on nutrition, socialization, health, and well-being outcomes, or 2) evaluate the effectiveness of promising non-traditional senior nutrition program delivery models that emerged during COVID-19.

In addition, ACL awarded a total of $769,622 for the first year of seven three-year projects to replicate and sustain previously successful grant models with diverse populations. Projects include addressing community-based malnutrition, revitalizing congregate meal sites, addressing elevated suicide risk/mental health distress, and restaurant-based congregate meal programs.

Research Grantee and Project Description

2022 Award Amount

Texas State University: Evaluate and sustain a scalable, non-traditional, multi-platform food delivery application (Nutrition for Underserved Elderly Via Application-NUEVA) that improves food and nutrition security; loneliness and socialization; and health and mental health status of underserved older adult populations while also reducing food loss and waste. This project is an extension of promising practices that emerged during COVID-19.


University of Utah: Conduct a randomized control investigating the pathways through which the social determinants of health (SDOH) impact malnutrition and physical activity treatment outcomes among underserved Senior Nutrition Program congregate meal participants. Products will include a replicable and sustainable congregate meal participant malnutrition and frailty screening model, a replicable SDOH-focused malnutrition and physical activity program, and a congregate meal participant person-centered “Road Map to Promote Nutrition and Physical Activity Health Equity” guide.


LifeCare Alliance – OH: Develop and test a multifaceted intervention, SixtyPLUS, that involves an in-depth assessment of home-delivered meal clients’ needs, followed by the delivery of tailored services provided by registered dietitians and occupational therapists. The project will create training tools and resources to support the replicability of SixtyPLUS across other aging service agencies nationwide. 


TOTAL funding for Research grants


Replication Grants

Replication Grantee and Project Description

2022 Award Amount

Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley/AgeSpan – MA: REUNIR project (Reconnecting Elders Underserved through Nutrition Interventions with Restaurants) advances food security, social connectedness, and health equity. This restaurant partnership project will improve access to healthy meals and increase social engagement for older adult immigrant and refugee communities by implementing a restaurant partnership pilot, and sustain, expand, and scale an existing restaurant pilot to additional communities.


University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences: Project will replicate an evidence-based suicide intervention training. Project goals include developing a collaborative model with capacity to increase food security and identifying suicide risk of marginalized older adults.


New Opportunities, Inc. – CT: Project will open a restaurant program in an area with a large population of low-income seniors. The restaurant will be the focal point of services surrounded by health, fitness, cultural programming, and educational opportunities. Project goals include expanding access to nutritious meals while improving nutrition knowledge, reducing isolation by increasing socialization, reducing health challenges, expanding access to fresh food, and forming a collaboration of community providers to sustain the project.


Northeastern Illinois Area Agency on Aging – IL: 
Project goal is to expand, enhance, and maintain a regionwide coordinated congregate dining program. The objectives are to increase participation in the congregate meals program, reduce social isolation, and expand restaurant partnerships.


Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County – IN: 
Project will develop a customized toolkit for area agencies on aging to address malnutrition in adults who live in the community.  Project goals include screening for and addressing social determinants of health; communicating effectively with healthcare partners regarding malnutrition risk and older adults; and ensuring the sustainability of the project in the community through robust sustainability strategies.


Waupaca County – WI: Project will develop a restaurant partnership to operate a congregate dining model for older adults. Projected outcomes include improved nutritional status, food security, and overall satisfaction compared to traditional congregate services, and decreased loneliness and isolation.  


Humboldt Senior Resource Center, Inc. – CA: Project goals are to reduce hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; promote socialization; and promote health and well-being particularly among rural seniors at high nutritional risk. The project will increase access to nutrition services while increasing congregate program attendance and contributions by expanding and updating the dining service model to the café model, introducing pop-up locations, and expanding the service area.


TOTAL funding for Replication grants


FY 2021 Grants

Grantee and Project Description

2021 Award Amount

East Tennessee State University will build on successful virtual nutrition education and outreach offered locally during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a "virtual supper club" hosted by university students and youth Nutrition Ambassadors in order to decrease food insecurity and loneliness among congregate meal participants in Northeast Tennessee. The program will enhance food resource management and connection while fostering a supportive community to decrease loneliness.


Lanakila Pacific has developed an innovative virtual congregate meal model that increases program reach by providing older adults with opportunities for social engagement and nutrition education to improve their overall health and well-being. The project goal is to show collaborative and systems level strategies, including the use of a web-based inventory of nutrition education and socialization opportunities, are effective for facilitating resource sharing that meets or exceeds program requirements, impacts policy, and creates sustainability.  


University of New England will implement and evaluate an innovative, pandemic-responsive nutrition education program that addresses food security, socialization, and perceived health and well-being of residents in low-income senior housing in rural Maine. The project goals include developing a direct education intervention to reinforce messages related to eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing physical activity, and purchasing healthy foods on a budget.

University of Texas at San Antonio will extend existing congregate meal program services through digital education and increased access. This project will remove the digital barrier for older adults so they can receive nutrition programming online with the aim of improving overall health and well-being. The project will create a culturally tailored digital nutrition intervention using community-based participatory research. It will also test the impact of a digital nutrition intervention on diet quality and food security. $296,381
TOTAL: $1,196,381
FY 2020 Grants
FY 2020 Demonstration Grants  

Grantee and Project Description

2020 Award Amount

AgeOptions – IL: The AgeOptions project is an innovation of “Title III-C 1.5”. This project addresses a gap in the continuum of services between Title III - C1, Congregate Meals and Title III - C2, Home Delivered Meals by 1) targeting an unmet need through an alternative delivery mechanism using unique partnerships, 2) providing a new lower cost decreased overhead option of 21 meals per week 3) providing opportunities for socialization, 4) decreasing food waste; increasing consumption, and 5) targeting an ethnically, racially diverse and limited English-speaking older adults and those with chronic conditions.




Apostle Group LLC – MD: This project will develop a standardized system of statewide care delivery for adults suffering with diabetes that includes: 1) the establishment of a diabetes pathway that provides an integration and reimbursement model for AAAs, 2) technology to improve access to care, reduce social isolation and food insecurity, and 3) the development of medically tailored menu options.



Iowa Department of Aging – IA: The goal of this project is to modernize Iowa’s congregate meal program infrastructure, delivery mechanisms and outreach to increase the number of consumers and meals served.  Project objectives include: 1) establishing a restaurant partnership infrastructure in the Elderbridge AAA service region, 2) developing flexible approaches to congregate meal service delivery mechanisms to target and outreach to two generations of older adults, 3) modernizing a streamlined intake process through technology use, and 4) identifying seniors who may be food insecure, socially isolated, and rural and providing nutrition education.




Kentucky State Cabinet for Health – KY: The goal of the Kentucky State Cabinet for Health project is to prepare the aging network to respond to catastrophic emergencies using strategies, actions and plans that have been tested in the aftermath of COVID-19.  The project will deliver resources and tools to address social isolation and access to regular, reliable nutritious food sources.



Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – MI: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Adult Services Agency, in partnership with four Area Agencies on Aging and Michigan State University Extension, will enhance nutrition programs through the three-year Boxes, Bags and Buddies project. The goal is to provide greater choices, nutrition education and social support within the existing home delivered and congregate meal programs.


New York City Department for the Aging – NY: The New York City Department for the Aging project will assume a holistic approach to address the nutritional, social and mental health needs of older New Yorkers.  The project will empower seniors to manage their mental health, nutrition and health status better; encourage social connectedness and leverage technology to create efficiencies and facilitate engagement.


Open Hand Atlanta – GA: Open Hand Atlanta will modernize nutrition care for seniors participating in a pilot of tele-nutrition services.  This new protocol will allow for the delivery of cost-effective nutrition education services for seniors who are at highest nutrition and food security risk.  The objectives of the project include:  1) improve the health of seniors who are at highest nutritional risk by referring them for individualized Medical Nutrition (MNT) provided by an Open Hand Atlanta Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) via the tele-nutrition platform and 2) develop and evaluate monthly nutrition presentations that will be either virtual or recorded webinars via the tele-nutrition platform.


Project Open Hand – CA: The goals of Project Open Hand are to create a program where: 1) older adults who are unable to shop or attend a congregate site can maintain and sustain their ability to cook, 2) address the needs of congregate participants during and after the pandemic, 3) provide healthful culturally competent and/or medically tailored at a low cost, and 4) address social isolation through socialization, nutrition education, exercise and chronic disease self-management opportunities.



University of North Carolina at Asheville – NC: The goal of this project is to facilitate healthcare investments in Older Americans Act (OAA) services by linking cost-effective, modernized OAA nutrition and health promotion diabetes services to improved health outcomes. The project will demonstrate person-centered carbohydrate-controlled home delivered and congregate nutrition meals along with wrap-around services to clients with pre-diabetes and diabetes.



FY 2020 Research Grants  

Georgia State University, University Foundation Inc. – GA: The work of Georgia State University, University Foundation will equip the aging network to address social isolation, loneliness and elevated suicide risk among vulnerable older adults during COVID-19.  They will leverage the skills, interest and compassion of Nutrition Services volunteers to reduce social isolation, loneliness and elevated suicidality among diverse, at-risk, homebound older adults through the novel BE WITH (Belonging and Empathy, With Intentional Targeted Helping) innovation.



Oasis Institute – MO: Oasis and Texas A&M University Center for Population and Aging will adapt Healthy Habits for Adults into a five-week virtual workshop with a meal preparation and virtual lunch called Virtual Healthy Habits (VHH). The project addresses creating partnerships between universities with aging services network organizations to test the new virtual workshop, extend the time people can safely remain in their home and enhance the quality and effectiveness of older adult nutrition programs, all through a lens of social distancing.



Grand Total for Both Demonstration and Research Grants $2,649,389

FY 2019 Grants

Grantee and Project Description

2019 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 health care 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

Grantee and Project Description

2018 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

Grantee and Project Description

2017 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.


Nutrition and Aging Resource Center

ACL funds the Nutrition and Aging Resource Center 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 center 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 entrepreneurship. The center also 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 supports healthy meals and other nutrition services. For toolkits, tip sheets, learning modules, and more, visit

Last modified on 07/06/2023

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