Category Archives: food

Nutrition assistance programs for the elderly are failing, federal report says

10 counties with the highest proportion of residents 65 or older. Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

By Joshua Valiquette
Capital News Service

Federal guidelines for nutritional programs fail to adequately address the needs of elderly adults, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study done in  Michigan and three other states.

The report called for more oversight over nutritional guidelines for seniors at a time when the state is getting older. By 2030, one in five Michigan adults will be over 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In response to the report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it intends to incorporate the unique needs of older adults into its guidelines but doesn’t have written plans yet to do so.

Sherri King, the nutrition service program leader for Aging and Adult Services in the state Department of Health and Human Services, says that registered dietitians under her supervision haven’t expressed concerns about the current dietary guidelines.

“I am very confident in their skill levels to meet the changing dietary needs,” King said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, most older adults have conditions associated with bad nutrition like diabetes or heart diseases.

The need to address nutrition guidelines and programs will grow in the coming years because of the rising age of Michigan residents, according to the U.S. Census.

The GAO, a nonpartisan Investigative arm of Congress, did the study in Michigan, Arizona, Louisiana and Vermont to examine how federal nutrition guides address older adults’ needs, how these guidelines are overseen; and the challenges programs face in meeting their nutritional needs.

GAO staff visited Evart, Baldwin, Grandville, Detroit and Troy as part of the study, according to Kathryn Larin, the lead staffer on the report and a director in GAO’s Education, Workforce and Income Security Team.

Although the nutritional needs of older adults can be different than for younger ones, guidelines for them produced by the federal government are similar to those given to much younger individuals, according to the report.

Lynn Cavett, the supervisor for child and adult food programs at the state Education Department, explained that the only difference in nutrition guidelines for the elderly is that “portions are larger and they are able to substitute milk for yogurt.”

Many adult care centers in Michigan use Meals On Wheels to provide food service for the elderly.

Erica Snyder, the nutritionist for Lansing-based Senior CommUnity Care of Michigan, has been using the service since 2015 and said the service follows the nutrition guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Overall, Snyder said, beneficiaries’ response to the service is “generally positive.”

Many counties now have almost 30% of their populations over the age of 65, Census data shows.

Alcona County residents are the oldest on average in the state, and the nine others with the highest average ages are in the Northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

Despite the rising average age of Michigan residents, the demand for programs that feed the elderly or disabled while their caregivers work is still low, according to the Education Department’s Cavett, who oversees the state’s six facilities offering these type of services.

Cavett says that the goal for the upcoming year is to “push to find more adult care programs to come in and use our facilities and resources.”

One reason Cavett pointed to for the lack of interest in such programs is the willingness of younger people to take responsibility for their elders.

USDA does provide some details to help programs ensure meeting the needs of special cases, like individuals with diabetic problems, according to the GAO report.

The report said many food service providers feel that more constant sf interaction with the USDA and more detailed meal plans for the elderly would be helpful.

Lunch shaming pushes senator to reintroduce bill

This story originally appeared on Great Lakes Echo.

By Carol Abbey-Mensah

A Michigan lawmaker is renewing an effort to prohibit schools from stigmatizing students who owe lunch money or lack enough to buy a school meal.

This practice, known as lunch shaming, sometimes involves kitchen staff throwing away students’ hot lunches and offering them cold sandwiches.

While the purpose is to push parents to settle the debts of their wards, it also embarrasses the kids because they are identified and sometimes picked on by their peers.

To curb lunch shaming in Michigan school districts, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D–Flint, has reintroduced The Hunger Free Students Bill of Rights.

“Sometimes students will receive a substandard lunch, or they are forced to perform chores or wear a stigmatizing wristband,” Ananich said.

His bill aims to prevent these acts by ensuring that school boards not publicly identify or stigmatize students who cannot pay for a school meal or owe a lunch debt.

“No child should be publicly embarrassed in front of their peers due to a low balance,” Ananich said. “Matters of lunch account balances should be taken up with students’ parents.”

All of the Great Lakes states have introduced and passed legislation and programs to tackle lunch shaming. Minnesota was the first to pass a lunch shaming law in 2014.

Apart from preventing the stigmatization of students, the bill would require school boards to ensure the confidentiality of pupils who qualify for free and reduced meals.

A similar bill was unsuccessful in 2018.

Often it requires years of work and introducing a bill several times to finally get it over the finish line, Ananich said.

He predicts that as more parents, students and teachers share stories of lunch shaming policies they see in their schools, more legislators will have an interest in working with me on this legislation.

Poll: Have you or has anyone you know experienced lunch shaming?

Harmony Lloyd who lives in Grand Blanc, Michigan, inspired Ananich’s legislation. She became interested in lunch shaming in 2018 after she heard of a local child’s lunch thrown away due to lunch debt.

“I vaguely recollected hearing stories of kids having lunch debt,” Lloyd said. “But it wasn’t until my son came home and told me the story, that I really began researching the issue.”

Lloyd called a woman in the school cafeteria to check out the story.

“She confirmed that this was the policy and that it happened often,” Lloyd said. “She also shared that the cafeteria workers hated to do it, but were told they would be fired if they gave away any lunches.”

After bringing the issue up at a school board meeting and having a friend donate some money to support the kids in debt, Lloyd was contacted by other parents who shared stories of this still happening.

“This is when I reached out to the media and to Sen. Ananich,” Lloyd said.

Lunch shaming is not new news.

In a New York elementary school about 10 years ago, Tate Wyatt could not afford a hot lunch.

He was embarrassed by the cafeteria staff and got picked on by friends.

“Everyone else would get their lunch and I would get pulled out of the line and told I would get a sandwich and a juice box,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt is not the only one.

At age 15, Evan Lane, then a student in the Fort Wayne Community schools in Indiana, said he went through a similar ordeal, where he would rather go hungry than receive a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“It gives me a sour taste in my mouth whenever I think of it,” said Lane, now a senior at Ball College in Indiana. “It ruined entire years of my education, as I was more focused on the fact that I was starving rather than on class.”

It felt as if the school wanted to make profit off of me, rather than actually creating a safe learning environment, Lane said.

Although a bill like this could help with this issue, there must also be good communication and understanding, between parents, school districts and food service workers, said Lori Adkins, a child nutrition consultant with Oakland Schools in Michigan.

“The food service workers must understand what the policies are, so that they will be able to deal with issues like this appropriately,” Adkins said.

When it comes to communicating with parents, school districts are already putting in effort.

“School districts send emails to parents telling them about balances, but sometimes the parents can’t pay because they have fallen on hard times,” Adkins said.

Lloyd also believes that awareness could also help.

As more people become aware of the issue, I think Michigan has a good opportunity to pass common sense, bipartisan legislation that is good for our kids, Lloyd said.

“I have high hopes this will be the year we make it happen,” Lloyd said.

How Improving Inland Fisheries Can Reduce Food Insecurity


By Gloria Nzeka

Dr. Emmanuel Kaunda, professor at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources in Malawi, and Dr. Steven Cooke, professor in the department of Biology at Carleton University in Canada discuss their research in inland fisheries.

They recently visited Michigan State University as part of the Robin Welcomme Fellowship Program, an initiative that recognizes scientists who have been working to promote responsible Inland Fisheries.

Listen to the interview here.

How Creative Can You Get With Beans?


By Gloria Nzeka

A team of researchers in the department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University work to improve the quality of beans. In this episode of the Food Fix, they discuss a variety of healthy ways through which beans can be consumed. Their experimental research include coming up with different flavors of beans, and milling methods to create bean flour that can used to make products such as pasta, bread etc.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Americans’ Eating Habits During the Great Depression


By Gloria Nzeka

Dr. Helen Veit, an Associate Professor in the department of history at Michigan State University discusses a project focusing on the history of what Americans ate during the Great Depression. Going across the country, Dr. Veit with her colleagues collected historical documents containing food recipes from the 1930s and digitized them.

The project revealed that American food was as diverse back then as it is today.

You can find food recipes and more about the ‘What America Ate’ project by visiting the website

Listen to the interview here