Office for the Aging


Congregate Meal Program in NYS

March is National Nutrition Month. In Part 3 of our 4 part series, we will focus on New York's congregate meals program.

Through 59 local offices for the aging, including New York City and two Indian Tribal Organizations, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) operates the federal Nutrition Program for the Elderly (NPE). The purposes of this program are:

  • to reduce hunger and food insecurity;
  • to promote socialization of older individuals; and
  • to promote the health and well-being of older individuals by assisting such individuals to gain access to nutrition and other disease prevention and health promotion services to delay the onset of adverse health conditions resulting from poor nutritional health or sedentary behavior.

Nutrition services are designed to prevent or reduce the effect of chronic disease associated with diet and weight; strengthen the link between nutrition and physical activity in health promotion for a healthy lifestyle; improve accessibility of nutrition information, nutrition education, nutrition counseling and related services, and healthy foods. Each local office for the aging provides congregate (community) and home delivered meals, health promotion and disease prevention services, nutrition screening, nutrition education, nutrition assessments and counseling. These services are a proven, cost effective means of helping older New Yorkers maintain their health and independence, engage in community life, and stay in their own homes and communities as long as possible.

Congregate (community) Meals: NYS Among the Best in the Country

In 2011-12 the congregate meal program provided 10.3 Million meals to about 121,000 older New Yorkers statewide. New York's congregate meals program ranks first in the nation for the number of meals served and second in the nation for number of people served.

Healthy, nutritious, balanced meals are served to older New Yorkers, up to five days a week, in senior centers, senior clubs, senior housing complexes, town halls and other nearby locations such as participating restaurants. There are about 1,000 meal sites across the state and most locations provide a litany of other programs and services such as information and assistance, health, fitness and wellness programs, transportation services, social adult day services, public benefits counseling, employment assistance, volunteer and civic engagement opportunities, social and recreational activities, educational and arts programs and intergenerational programs. Some community sites provide transportation for those who need help getting to one of the meal locations.

Menus are planned and certified by Registered Dietitians to meet national dietary requirements and the needs and preferences of participants, including ethnic and kosher meals, as much as possible. Registered Dietitians also help participants by advising and helping to answer questions about diabetes, weight loss or gain and healthy eating through the provision of one-on-one nutrition counseling.

You don't need to receive meals to meet with the Registered Dietitians.

Eligibility for Congregate Meals

An individual is eligible for congregate meals if they are 60 years old or older.

Others who may be eligible for congregate meals:

  1. The spouse of an eligible individual may also receive meals even if they are not 60 years old.
  2. An individual who is under the age of 60, has a disability and lives with an eligible individual, they may also receive meals at the community dining site.
  3. When a community dining site is open in a housing complex for older adults (primarily) people with disabilities living in the same place may get meals there as well.

Local offices for the aging use congregate meal sites, home delivered meals programs, multipurpose senior centers or other appropriate sites to deliver health promotion and disease prevention services, integrated with the nutrition program. Priority is given to medically underserved areas and where there are a large number of older individuals in greatest economic and social need.

Broad services include health risk assessments; routine health screening (hypertension, glaucoma, cholesterol, cancer, vision, hearing, diabetes, bone density, and nutrition screening); nutritional counseling and educational services; evidence-based health promotion programs, including programs related to the prevention and mitigation of the effects of chronic disease, alcohol and substance abuse reduction, smoking cessation, weight loss and control, stress management, falls prevention, physical activity and improved nutrition; physical fitness programs; home injury control services; mental health screening services; information and education about Medicare preventive care benefits including influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.

Individual Cost for Congregate Meals

There is no charge for the meals or nutrition information, or counseling, however each person is given a chance to make a voluntary contribution. All contributions are used locally to help serve more people.

There is no charge for the home delivered meal program, nutrition information or counseling but each person is provided an opportunity to make a suggested voluntary contribution. All contributions are used to help serve more people in your community.

For more information:

  1. In person: call or visit your local office for the aging. County Based Offices for the Aging and New York City
  2. Check our Information regarding Home Delivered Meals .

For Additional Help Contact:

  • Call Senior Citizens Helpline at 1-800-342-9871
  • NY Connects(External Link) Choices for Long Term Care