On November 5, the NFESH Leadership and What A Waste team traveled to Harrisburg, PA, to meet with Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. We made the trip with several goals or purposes in mind. The first was to present to the Secretary and members of her senior staff some of the early findings we had gleaned from analyzing the data gathered during what we call “the baseline period” of What A Waste projects that are underway at nine congregate senior nutrition programs across eight counties in the Commonwealth. Those programs are diverse in size, demographics and location. They operate in rural areas and small towns and the heart of the city of Philadelphia. All are funded in part through Title III of the Older Americans Act and augmented by State funds as well as monies from other sources. Like every food service and nutrition program in America, all have waste. And in the case of these nine meal sites, all are managed by program directors who acknowledge that fact and want to learn how to reduce or transform their waste. They understand that as that happens, they can better serve the seniors who currently participate in the nutrition program and also expand their services to others in need.

friendship-circle-july_121929A second purpose was to applaud the Secretary for her foresight in bringing What A Waste to numerous sites across the Pennsylvania simultaneously. While What A Waste is indisputably valuable to individual programs in helping them improve their singular operations, NFESH has long believed that the impact can be magnified significantly when it is implemented in a broader context – that is, at multiple sites. Secretary Osborne caught that vision as soon as we articulated it to her. She understood that the kinds of information that emerge from this approach can help identify common issues and trends as well as lead to innovative solutions. Some will involve policy changes that need to be made either at the State level through official guidance and regulations or at the AAA level with the encouragement of the State. Then, of course, SNPs are responsible for modifying their operations to implement them. The Pennsylvania project acknowledged the critical importance of a cooperative effort that included: direction and funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging; involvement and support from the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (p4a) and eight of its members in whose areas WAW projects were operating; training, analytics, reports and recommendations from NFESH; and the hands-on implementation in community-based SNPs. As a result of this approach, value has accrued to all entities involved.marconi-july_120949

These entities are not the only – or even most important – beneficiaries of What A Waste, of course. The vulnerable seniors, who currently rely on or could benefit from SNPs to meet their nutritional needs, are.  And keeping our focus there drove our third purpose in sitting down with Secretary Osborne. We needed to explore together the answer to the questions: What’s next?  Where do we go from here? She, and we, left the afternoon all the more committed to working together to expand on our successes in Pennsylvania. What we learned there NFESH hopes to bring to and share with other states as well.

Leadership requires courage and investment – always of time and confidence and energy and sometimes of financial resources. Teresa Osborne committed all.  We are grateful for the key support What A Waste has garnered from the Aging Secretary of the “Keystone State.”  We are confident that p4a, the eight AAAs that are among their membership and the nine SNPs chosen for the Pennsylvania project are as well. It is changing the landscape of that Commonwealth for its older citizens in a marvelous way.