Citymeals research: impact of meals on wheels on seniors in nyc

There are nearly 1.8 million New Yorkers over the age of 60 today. Increasingly, they are women, immigrants and people living alone with limited social support and trying to manage at the poverty line. Among older adults, food insecurity has emerged as a crisis, but little was known about how New York City's food programs are meeting their diverse needs.

Citymeals partnered with the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute to analyze the food security needs of older New Yorkers accessing the City's older adult center and home-delivered meal programs. We engaged a diverse group of 500 participants in this work. The findings of our research are stark and show a food insecurity crisis among those we serve.

Nearly half of older New Yorkers surveyed experienced food insecurity in the past year, and those numbers rose to 60% among those receiving home-delivered meals.

  • 41% are sometimes or never able to shop for groceries.
  • 38% have limited ability to prepare food.
  • 15% are never able to cook.

Our research showed high rates of poverty and isolation among older New Yorkers utilizing the City's main food programs.

  • 65% of those surveyed are living on less than $15,000 a year; 32% do not receive social security.
  • 45% do not have friends or family who can help them with at least one meal a day.
  • 38% report that loneliness and depression are a problem for them.

Our data reveals limitations in the City’s food programs but also demonstrated successes.

  • 87% of research participants said that home-delivered meals help them remain in their own homes. Nearly as many, report meals help them eat more healthily and manage health conditions.
  • Half of participants receiving home-delivered meals said the program should provide two or more meals a day.


These findings show that hunger is a solvable problem and the potential of programs like ours to provide anti-hunger solutions at scale. With this knowledge, Citymeals is committed to ending elder hunger in New York City by 2040.

Read our brief, Aging Without Hunger, to learn more about how food insecurity is affecting older New Yorkers and the infrastructure, program and policy reforms Citymeals recommends.

For more information about Citymeals' research, email Director of Policy and Advocacy Jeanette Estima.