Caretaker cooking classes and local produce bring health and hope to seniors


by Amber Hansen

For seniors on fixed incomes, healthy food, although desired, is often hard to come by. But what if the people who cared for them were trained to cook wholesome meals? What if locally grown fruits and vegetables could be incorporated into free meal delivery services? The team at Presbyterian Community Health in Albuquerque, N.M. has brought together diverse partners to improve both food security and health equity for seniors in a new project.

Through the project, 135 Spanish-speaking home health aides are being trained in cooking and nutrition for seniors and offered paid internships and ongoing professional development opportunities. Additionally, 63,000 pounds of local produce is being purchased and incorporated into free meal delivery for 1,620 low-income seniors.

The project is already getting positive feedback from the seniors. One participant said, “I probably would be eating fast food if I didn’t have the meals. I eat healthy this way.”

“I was told I am a diabetic last October and have since been eating better with the meals and have lost 26 pounds,” another participant said.


“Connecting Harvest to Health/Conectando Cosechas con la Salud” is a four-year project with the goal of improving health equity by leveraging resources to improve senior food security while at the same time increasing income-generating opportunities for workers in the community.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services is a nonprofit health system that has served New Mexicans since 1908. The health system established Presbyterian Community Health in 2016 to develop innovative approaches for addressing the most pressing health needs in the community. Food security and nutrition continually rise to the top of health needs that they address.

Additional project partners include: Encuentro, Meals on Wheels Albuquerque, Three Sisters Kitchen, and the Connecting Harvest to Health/Conectando Cosechas con la Salud Community Advisory Committee.


The partnership is funded by a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, with matching funds from Presbyterian.

Learn more about how hospitals can address food insecurity

Amber Hansen is Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care western regional coordinator.