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Presbyterian announces USDA-funded food partnership

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Presbyterian Healthcare Services has announced a partnership with several Albuquerque-area nonprofits aimed at connecting senior citizens with healthy food.

The partnership is funded by a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with matching funds from Presbyterian.

Presbyterian says the money will fund several programs, including training 135 home health aides on senior nutrition and use of local ingredients in food preparation. The program is a collaboration with Encuentro, an education and advocacy group for Latino immigrants, which provides a home health aide certification program through Central New Mexico Community College.

Andrea Plaza, Encuentro’s executive director, said the senior nutrition program will include an optional internship that pairs participants with low-income seniors, who will receive free home care for one month. While the curriculum is still in development, Plaza said it is certain to include training on nutrition, safety, food preparation techniques and the value of providing companionship during meal times.

“There’s research that suggests health outcomes are better for seniors when they eat their meals with someone else,” said Plaza. “Part of the issue with poor nutrition in seniors is related to isolation.”

The nutrition instruction will take place at Three Sisters Kitchen, a community kitchen project in Downtown Albuquerque. The facility will also be a site where individuals can redeem a “prescription” written by Presbyterian providers or select community members for fresh fruit and vegetables.

“At some point, a teacher at a local school may be able to determine a family needs this prescription, and then send them down here for their first visit,” said Anzia Bennett, director of Three Sisters Kitchen. “We’ll also be training our own staff in the initial screening process. We want to do everything we can to ensure these programs have a deep and wide impact.”

Additionally, Presbyterian says it work with Meals on Wheels to purchase more than 63,000 pounds of produce from 10 local growers over four years for use in delivered meals. Presbyterian will also sponsor free meal delivery for some of its low-income patients.