Last year we used this space to announce the kickoff of this country’s first statewide What A Waste initiative — in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This week we can report that NFESH’s Matt Levine traveled to State College, PA, to participate in the statewide 2017 Nutrition Conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, and presented through the Long Term Living Training Institute, where he showcased the results of that pioneer effort. The Conference brought together well over 100 state officials, such as Secretary on Aging Teresa Osborne, leaders from Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging, nutrition service providers and others who have a responsibility for or an interest in working to improve the delivery of nutrition services to seniors in need.

It is no secret that NFESH believes both that reducing waste in senior nutrition programs is a critical improvement that each nutrition provider should embrace and that What A Waste is the means thorough which it can be effectively achieved. After all, we have a growing mound of data to prove our contention. “That was the heart of the message Matt had to impart to conference attendees,” NFESH CEO Enid Borden said, “but not before, on behalf of all of us at NFESH, he recognized Secretary Osborne for taking the groundbreaking step of making her state the first in the nation to implement the statewide What A Waste approach. Doing so required both courage and vision as well as an active embracing of NFESH’s message that, if senior nutrition programs are going to be modernized with an eye toward reducing the very real and growing threat of hunger among seniors, then States and their aging programs’ leaders must first view themselves as the levers of change.”

The first step in that change, of course, was the Secretary’s decision to bring What A Waste to nine senior centers across Pennsylvania. A second, and equally important one, was and is to educate dozens of others about the details of the initiative and the results of the project. The statewide conference was such a forum.

You might have noticed we titled this article “Don’t Just Take Our Word for It.”  We certainly do want State Aging Directors, AAAs and senior nutrition programs to continue relying on the evidence we present about the success of What A Waste. But there is more to the story than just what NFESH has to say. There are no better advocates, and critics frankly, than those individuals on the ground in nutrition programs in large and small, urban, suburban and rural programs who have lived with What A Waste on a daily basis. They have learned from it, benefited from it, and showed NFESH how and where refinements could be made. Now they are eager to recruit their colleagues to join the What A Waste movement. Montco AwardThat was evident when Linda Collins, Executive Director of Montco SAAC, (right, shown here with Whitney Lingle, Director of Nutrition Services) stepped to the microphone to receive the “Best Practice in Nutrition Award” from Secretary Osborne. The innovation responsible for her receiving the award, she declared, was What A Waste. It had transformed her program, staff and the participants and was continuing to do so.

In the afternoon session, others joined their voices to her. Folks from five of the programs that  implemented What A Waste shared their experiences with the conference attendees in a panel moderated by Matt. After he gave a brief history of the initiative, Matt asked lots of questions, like “What did you learn?” “What was your greatest challenge?” “What was the greatest revelation that came out of the project?” While the answers reflected the diversity of venues, sites, client populations, operations and even management styles, there was clear consensus around three key facts: (1) What A Waste provided senior nutrition programs with valuable information about their own operations that they did not have before; (2) what programs learned from What A Waste helped them improve both procedures and menus; and (3) the seniors loved participating in and learning from What A Waste.

What A Waste – What A Win!