June 28, 2017
Written by Alice Gilliam, United Way Earn & Learn Student
A part of aging healthily is having good nutrition. Being a senior ethnic meal site means not only providing nutritious meals, but also preserving and celebrating the culture of those that are served.
The United Community Center (UCC) and the Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC) are senior ethnic meal sites that cater to the Latinx population and Southeast Asian population, respectively. Their nutritious meal programs serve meals that are specific to their respective culture 3-4 times a week. These meals are served to connect the seniors to foods they ate growing up and to preserve the Hispanic and Southeast Asian culture.
Serving these meals also promote socialization among the seniors. Not only can they talk to each other, but both sites have bilingual staff members who speak English and the respective language spoken at each site. This removes the language barrier and the seniors feel more comfortable communicating and building bonds with the staff members.
Ninety-one percent of the population that the UCC deserves is Hispanic, with 12% being 60 years or older. The senior center at UCC is the only adult day care that provides transportation for the Hispanic population. They also provide housing for those who qualify. These things, along with the meal program, is very important for the Hispanic community, according to Hector Hernandez, the program coordinator for the United Community Senior Center.
“A lot of the people that we serve have immigrated and spend a lot of their days alone. UCC’s Senior Center gives them a space where they can identify with Hispanic culture through listening to music that they love, playing Hispanic games, and most importantly, eating Hispanic foods,” Hector reflects.
Forty-three percent of Milwaukee Christian Center clients are Asian. Their senior program focuses on keeping the seniors healthy, physically independent, and socially connected through providing activities like teaching English as a second language, exercise led by Marquette University’s Exercise Science program, and a new activity: teaching seniors how to use social media to connect with family back home.
“The meal program and senior center is important because there isn’t any other sense of community centers for the Asian population,” said Song Xiong, Senior Center Manager. “What’s unique is that MCC is very diverse. A lot of our seniors live on their own and we want to be able to provide our seniors with a nutritious meal. For some of them, this is their only meal for the day.”
The nutritious meal program is not just food for a lot of the seniors at UCC and MCC. That is why United Way supports these programs.
“Food security goes beyond nutrition. Food connects people to their past and brings communities together,” said Krystina Kohler, Income Portfolio Manager at United Way. ”Older adults can feel socially isolated, especially if they feel disconnected from the culture they grew up in. By providing culturally familiar meals, senior meal sites promote dignity, memory, and socialization of our community’s seniors,”
Good nutrition is not the only thing that these senior sites offer. They provide a nurturing experience for seniors to socialize, stay active, and celebrate their culture.
Learn more about United Way’s work in fighting food instability and increasing the community’s financial stability.