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COVID-19 Community Based Food Assistance to Older Adults

February 4, 2021

Lessons Learned from the First Months of Operation

In March 2020, as the state of California issued stay at home orders in response to the Coronavirus crisis, the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) recognized the unprecedented need to address the food security implications for older adults sheltering in place. They formed a work group with representatives
from a diverse set of community based organizations (CBOs) to identify how local CBOs could coordinate and get support for food delivery, both grocery and meal, especially for aging and at risk adults, and how the state departments could best and quickly support that critical work.

The work group met weekly through May and then less frequently through July, surfacing policy and operational challenges, providing feedback to the California Governor’s Office on Emergency Services (CalOES) as they rolled out related services, documenting and sharing a repository of resources that support operational approaches being implemented throughout
the state, and developing estimates of the scale of need for services.

This document serves to highlight the key lessons that have been learned in the first several months of food assistance response for older adults during the COVID-19 crisis. The work group’s consultant interviewed more than twenty representatives from Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), Food Banks, Meals on Wheels providers, information and assistance providers, and the
statewide associations representing those groups in order to understand what helped or hindered disaster food response for older adults. Lessons include topics related to:

  • Policy flexibilities
  • Operations
  • Information & referral networks
  • Program development and implementation
  • Disaster funding streams
  • Disaster planning and coordination
  • Ongoing coordination of food assistance services

As Coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the state, older adults and others at high risk will continue to need to shelter in place. These lessons can support state departments, AAAs, and CBOs to offer the best possible support to food insecure vulnerable populations.

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