Throughout the vibrant energy of our Central Indiana cities and small towns, a compelling yet often overlooked story unfolds – the rich and meaningful lives of our senior community members. Some have lived on the same street their entire lives, and some have traversed continents before setting down roots in the Hoosier heartland.
Within these diverse backgrounds, a common thread unites them: the fundamental need for social and nutritional support. Programs that provide meals and social connection for seniors are a lifeline, nurturing their wellbeing and preserving their stories. In the simplicity of breaking bread together, we discover the true essence of community and connection.
It might surprise you to learn that 13.5% of those age 60 and older in Indianapolis are food insecure, according to America’s Health Rankings. Food insecurity is a pressing issue that affects a significant portion of the aging population.
As we approach the cold months and holiday season, I want to shine a light on one of CICOA’s most beloved and transformative services, Meals & More. As the name implies, this initiative goes beyond meeting basic needs by providing meals; it fosters a sense of community, engages cultural diversity, and most importantly, nourishes the souls and stomachs of the seniors we serve.
Meals & More Service for Seniors
Meals & More offers home-delivered meals, neighborhood meal sites, discounted meals, boxes of shelf-stable foods and fresh produce, pet food and supplies, and nutrition education. Our mission is clear: to ensure that every senior in need has access to nutritious meals and the social interaction that can be scarce in their lives. We provide daily meals, but the impact goes far beyond the food on their plates.
Sharing a Meal: A Powerful Connection
Sharing a meal is a universal act that transcends generations and cultures. It’s a simple yet powerful way to build connections, share stories and create moments of joy. Unfortunately, isolation is a harsh reality for many seniors, and this lack of social interaction can have devastating consequences for their mental and emotional wellbeing. Through shared dining experiences at meal sites and meals delivered to their homes by a familiar face, Meals & More aims to combat this isolation and rekindle the sense of community and togetherness.
Cultural Meal Offerings
One newer offering from Meals & More that brings the community together is the addition of cultural meals to the menu. The purpose of the Cultural Meals initiative is to highlight and share different flavors, heritages and ethnic foods with a goal of increasing the variety on our menus to be more inclusive of all the populations we serve. For some, these new meals may be uncommon dishes or flavors, but for others they are a familiar taste of home.
We highlight one new cultural meal per month on our menus. What dishes have been served so far? In the past few months, they have included gumbo, burrito bowl, teriyaki chicken, beef curry and Zharkoye (Russian beef stew). Along with the new meals, all clients receive educational information about the importance of honoring other cultures’ traditions and cuisines, as well as a presentation at all meal sites from CICOA’s internal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) task force.
“It has been really nice to collaborate with Chef for Hire to create new meals that add variety and diversity to what we offer, and our participants seem to really enjoy them,” says Tiffany Cox, Registered Dietitian supervisor.
Cultural meals are not just about satisfying hunger; they bring a sense of home and familiarity. For many seniors, these meals can take them on a journey back to their childhood, to the kitchens of their loved ones and to the cherished flavors of their past. In a time when they may be physically isolated, these meals connect them with their roots, providing a sense of comfort and belonging.
Creating Joy Through the Gift of Meals
When we ask our community members to pitch in and provide meals for seniors, know that your donations truly have a transformative touch. Not only are you helping low-income seniors who are struggling to meet their basic needs, but you are enriching their lives and supporting their total wellbeing.
I have had opportunities to meet countless older adults who have benefited from CICOA’s senior nutrition services in various ways. Many seniors who have tried the new cultural meals at our meal sites have asked when a new favorite will return to the menu or become a regular rotation. Seniors who were once lonely and isolated now have a support system and a reason to look forward to each day. They share heartwarming stories of newfound friendships, laughter around the lunch table and the simple joy of having someone to talk to.
The impact of Meals & More extends far beyond the dining table. It’s about addressing the fundamental needs of our seniors, ensuring their stability, and preserving their dignity and independence. With your donation, you are not only joining the fight to end food insecurity but also contributing to the best possible quality of life for our elderly community members.
The journey to support and uplift seniors through culturally diverse, nutritious meals is ongoing and requires community advocacy. CICOA is a member of the Indy Hunger Network, a collaboration of anti-hunger organizations in the Greater Indianapolis area, and I personally serve as Chair on its Board of Directors. I invite you to get connected to IHN and voice your ideas for fighting hunger, one meal at a time and one life at a time.
As we strive to improve the lives of seniors and combat food insecurity, remember that 43% of older adults in Central Indiana have difficulty meeting daily expenses, according to SAVI. Your contribution can make all the difference in the world to seniors who are facing these challenges. Together, we can ensure that no senior in our community goes hungry and that they have the support and companionship they deserve.
Thank you for your ongoing support, and let’s continue the journey towards a brighter, more nourished future for our seniors.
YOUR GIFT TRANSFORMS LIVES
Give comfort to seniors in need
As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.