TAOA says move to hot meals is done deal
Despite hearing about why the Territorial Administration On Aging (TAOA) has to stop its food voucher program — it’s a federal decision, period — the majority of senior citizens in American Samoa — and their families — are still insisting the food voucher system is the best for American Samoa’s elderly and continue to believe a dialogue with the feds will change it back.
Not so, says the Director of TAOA, Ale Tifimalae Ale, who told Samoa News during a news conference last Friday, the transition was supposed to have been made a very long time ago. The news conference was held at the TAOA Office in Pago Pago.
“I know Governor Lolo has brought out this issue in the past with Samoa News and various media outlets about distributing hot meals to our senior citizens, instead of giving them voucher booklets like they’re used to,”Ale said, adding, “The system of food voucher distribution from the beginning should have never happened.”
He added, “Our program of supporting our elders with vouchers in the past, is now converting to hot meals. It is under the management and supervision of our Federal Agency in San Francisco California, and the Older American Act Region 9 is under the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Ale, they are trying to serve the senior citizens of American Samoa, the best they can, and in a very similar way that senior citizens in America are being helped.
He stated, “This transition to hot meals is a good adjustment for our elders here in American Samoa. All around the United States, they have centers for the senior citizens to gather and partake of their free meals, as well as making new friends and having random conversations as to whatsoever they feel like discussing.”
The TAOA director noted, “For us, we are very used to just picking up the food vouchers — then who knows what they are purchasing with them, because we cannot keep count of what they are purchasing for their consumption… whether it’s healthy food or just to buy food for the whole family — that is not the purpose of the vouchers in the first place.”
He continued, “We need to make sure that our seniors are being treated exactly like the seniors in the United States. We need to make sure that they are consuming nutritious and healthy food in order for them to live long.”
Ale then explained his support for the ‘hot meals’ program, noting that a majority of our senior citizens here in American Samoa are left at home almost every day by themselves. He said that they are not only bored, but they have thoughts and feelings that need to be let out, but they can’t do that when a majority of the family members are out working, in school, in church activities, and basically just busy with their everyday lives.
“This is a great transition to bring the elders together, so they can bond as peers in their generation, so they can make friends, have fun, talk about their daily lives or just sing songs and do something together,” Ale said. “Then when the next appointment for hot meals comes around, our elders will be looking forward to coming back and hanging out with their peers and just to get away from home, away from boredom, and away from silence. They need to have fun too, and at the same time, they are being served their scheduled nutritional meals twice a week.”
According to Ale, TAOA is working together with the DOE School Lunch Program, as well as the private sector, including catering services around the island for the hot meals program. They will have a meeting to confirm final details to implement the program, as well as to discuss the menus scheduled by their main office in San Francisco.
“We will also be reaching out to the different religions on island for their help and support to host each county for this twice a week service for our senior citizens. We will be depending on delivering these hot meals to designated chapels on island that will best suit the transportation in each county or district.”
TAOA Director Ale would like to reach out to all members of the government and private sector who will be helping out with this arrangement, to please attend a very important meeting on February 21, 2014 at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium “to discuss how we can best serve our senior citizens in American Samoa, as well as to answer any questions about this transition.”
Everyone is invited to attend says the TAOA director.
TAOA programs are funded by the Older Americans Act, which is administered by the federal Administration on Aging. It authorizes a wide array of service programs through a national network of 56 State and territorial agencies as well as area agencies, service providers, and in many states, not-for-profit organizations like Meals on Wheels.
Title III C1 (OAA Section 331) of the Act authorizes meals and related nutrition services in group (congregate) settings, which were designed to help keep older Americans healthy and prevent the need for more costly medical intervention. Besides meals, services are designed to include nutrition screening and education and nutrition assessment and counseling as appropriate.
The program also presents opportunities for social engagement and meaningful volunteer roles, which contribute to overall health and well-being. The Act also authorizes meals and related nutrition services to older individuals that are homebound through a delivery service.
In 2010, 40 percent of national participants were served at group meal settings while 60 percent were served in their home.
The OAA authorizes and provides appropriations to the Administration on Aging (AoA) for three different nutrition programs under Title III:
· Congregate Nutrition Services (Title III C1)
· Home-Delivered Nutrition Services (Title III C2)
· Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP).
Group (Congregate) Nutrition Services was established in 1972 and Home-Delivered Nutrition Services began in 1978. The Incentive Program provides additional funds for food based on past usage. In additional it receives commodity foods and financial support from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).