Connecting the dots for seniors
Ms. Lil Swenson, 85, of Humphrey Manor in Wadena, has always enjoyed eating vegetables. “I always have tried to serve a balanced meal,” she says. Sometimes that’s not so easy, especially for those who may not be as mobile as they once were. So when Public Health, Meals on Wheels and local growers teamed up to provide fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables to homebound seniors, Lil was happy to be a part. “I am used to having my own garden, but now I can't do all of that.”
Todd and Wadena Public Health, with SHIP funding, implemented the Senior Fruit & Vegetable Program with the help of the Eagle Bend and Wadena Senior Nutrition Sites and the Staples and Wadena farmers' markets. The program's goal was to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in homebound seniors, since healthier eating is one key to better health. Evidence shows that Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by as little as one portion per day may lower the risk of coronary artery heart disease by 4 percent.
The program is great for local growers, too. They have a steady, standing order every two weeks they can count on at a guaranteed price per pound.
People have noticed. “Other communities have already contacted us to replicate the program,” says Katherine Mackedanz of Todd County Public Health. “This program is a great example of using existing resources—local growers, senior nutrition sites, and Meals on Wheels drivers—to provide a valuable service—delivering seniors fresh, local fruits and vegetables.”
Now at the end of the summer season, Lil reflects on what she enjoyed the most about the program. She cites the excitement of anticipating what produce would come in the bags as well as the quality of the produce, "I was so impressed by how clean the produce was." She also mentions how the 5 pound bags were just right in terms of quantity and that she was able to cut up and handle all of the produce that came in the bags. The size and the frequency was "just right" for her.
For the first year, 43 seniors participate in the program. A five pound bag of fresh fruits and vegetables were delivered every other week throughout this past summer. All total, 1,290 pounds of produce were delivered. The result: eating healthier. It worked for Lil. "If you got it, you'll eat it," she says.