Aging Projects, Inc. (API) was established in 1974. It was organized as a nutritional program for the Elderly based on the law passed by Congress in 1965, which established the Older American Act (AoA). The purpose of the Older Americans Act was to provide assistance in the development of programs to improve the quality of life for older Americans. The Administration on Aging, under the Department of Health and Human Services, was established by this Act. In 1972, the Nutrition Program for Older Americans became a reality with the signing into law of the Title VII of the Older Americans Act. Two years later, in 1974, Aging Projects, Inc. served its first congregate and home delivered meals. Congregate meals are meals provided in-group settings at neighborhood senior centers, community centers, etc. Congregate meals offer an opportunity for people to enjoy a well-balanced, nutritious meal in the company of others. Generally, these meals are provided at noontime. The program not only promotes better health in seniors through improved nutrition, but also reduces the isolation of old age, thereby improving the quality of life in the later years. Many social and recreational activities are offered along with the meals. Our home delivered meal program is essential for those individuals wanting to remain in their own home. Our volunteers and staff are sometime the only person that will physically see the senior each day to establish that the senior is doing well.
The purpose of the nutrition program is to meet the nutritional and social needs of the person age 60 or older. In October of 1978, six years after the Nutrition Program for Older Americans began, the Comprehensive Older Americans Act Amendments were signed into law. The amendments consolidated the social service, nutrition, and multipurpose senior center programs under Title III, in an effort to eliminate duplication and overlapping of services. The nutrition program is now Title III-C of the Older Americans Act.
Over the years API has been the pioneer for many of the aspects that are an integral part of the statewide nutrition program that is utilized today. In 1988 we were the pilot site for the NPE commodity program. We were the first to offer weekend and frozen meals, breakfast and evening meals during that same year.
The first day of operations for API was in the director’s home located at 321 N. Maple in her garage, using a card table for a desk. Over 40 years and 6 moves later we established our current home in October of 2012 at 112 West Sherman in Hutchinson Kansas.
The very first meal to be served in any of our sites was in Arkansas City on March 25, 1974. API opened a total of five sites that first year and served 12,396 meals. During the last 40 plus years API opened and closed sites to reach our current level of 51 sites, and 16 isolated communities. API servers almost 600,000 meals annually. Although API must follow all federal and state guidelines, we as an agency have always felt that individuality is also important; because of this each of our meal sites is unique to the local communities’ needs and desires. When the meal program first began in our Arkansas City site the meals were from Tyson frozen meals. In 1976 we changed to the current system of preparing the meals ourselves and serving them at congregate sites or to our home delivered participants. Our most popular meal is our Thanksgiving dinner. Our numbers double every year for this one meal. The most popular food item is the oven-fried chicken according to the responses we get from menu suggestions each quarter.
Aging Projects, Inc. has a board of directors that sets policy and procedures. Our first board of directors was five individuals from the sites that were open and has grown to our current sixteen (16) -member board. One board member is selected from each of the ten counties that we serve, and the last three are position specific, legal, media and financial. API boards over the years have helped set policy, develop our program and given guidance and directions so that Meals on Wheels/Friendship Meals could grow and develop into a superior nutrition program.
Aging Projects, Inc. has been fortunate in the longevity of our staff. We currently have staff that has been with us for over 32 years. I think that the reason staff stays is the joy and satisfaction that they receive by providing a quality service to our participants. They love what they do and they do it well. They know that our meal program is vital to the health and well-being of everyone that we serve.
There is no cost charged for any Meals on Wheels/Friendship Meals, either congregate or home delivered. Participants are given the opportunity to give a contribution and are encouraged to do so. All contributions are on voluntary bases and are strictly confidential. Services are never denied because of inability to contribute. Guests and employees under 60 are required to pay the full cost of the meal.