Advancing Nutrition For Georgia Seniors
We’ve been continuing our 3-year federal grant with the Administration for Community Living through Open Hand Atlanta’s GRITS (Georgians Receiving Insightful Telenutrition Seminars) project. As the name implies, the program provides virtual nutrition education and counseling to seniors and senior centers in rural parts of Georgia. We received funding for the project back in October 2020, and officially began our programs in senior centers in Northeast, Middle, and Southwest Georgia.
The grant addresses two significant challenges identified by our partners at the Georgia Division of Aging Services and Area Agencies on Aging: a lack of access to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) at many of the rural centers, and a lack of subsequent follow-up to ensure that seniors continue to take further steps so they will no longer screen high for nutrition risk. You can read more about how we got the program started here.
Overall, we found that many senior centers had access to the technology needed to host the classes, making the actual implementation of group classes much easier than originally anticipated. As of May 2022, we’ve been able to reach 455 seniors across 7 senior centers with our monthly nutrition seminars. A vast majority of seniors reported enjoying the sessions, and so far, most have been able to increase their nutrition knowledge as a result of the classes. Our RDNs have even reported seeing some seniors bring tablets with them to appointments and various errands so they can still listen in while they’re (safely) on-the-go!
“I love [GRITS] and had several seniors state that they wanted to try adding one day going completely plant-based,” says the senior center director in Perry County. “To assist them, here at Perry, we are going to do once a monthly Smoothie Day to make smoothies using fruit, vegetables, and plant-based milk along with recipes that they can take home and create.”
Additionally, we’ve received over 100 referrals for individualized Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)! Those who participate gain access to one-on-one coaching with an RDN, who helps them set goals and provides them resources they may not otherwise have access to. We’ve already seen great improvements in people’s health and quality of life. As one MNT client put it, “I really appreciate [my RDN] taking the time to talk through all this with me. I’m feeling more motivated to get ahead of my health since managing it is a full-time job.”
Of course, so much of our individualized coaching is simply helping seniors make sense of the various sources of information out there and providing them the connections they need to gain access to services. For example, if someone needs food, our RDNs can refer them to the senior SNAP program. Beyond that, many of these seniors are still dealing with social isolation, because they’re either worried about getting sick or are otherwise homebound, and appreciate simply having a check-in.
With the results we’ve already been able to achieve, Open Hand Atlanta is excited to be leading the charge in advancing the wellbeing of seniors across the state. Moving forward, we’re continuing to recruit new sites so more seniors have access to this critical nutrition education. It’s also our hope to continue working with the Georgia Division of Aging to standardize this nutrition education across Georgia, providing seniors consistent, high-quality education that empowers them to take charge of their health.
Our RDN, Rachel Berton, puts the success of GRITS best: “It’s been so rewarding to see seniors have increasingly more enthusiasm and knowledge around nutrition as the months progress! Helping people feel more empowered around food and nutrition is what I love about working with this program.”