LeadingAge Magazine · January-February 2019 • Volume 09 • Number 01

Better Food and Better Lives

January 18, 2019 | by Melissa Fordyce

This provider has created a program to help affordable housing residents fulfill their nutritional needs and develop healthier heating habits.

Robert Nowell is a resident at the Ann Thomas Presbyterian Apartments, a Presby’s Inspired Life community in the lower-income Kingsessing neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA.

On any particular day, Nowell makes his grocery shopping list, which includes plenty of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

But until recently, Nowell’s grocery list didn’t include those nutritious items. The reason was simple: He couldn’t afford them.

Robert Nowell
Robert Nowell, a resident of Presby’s Inspired Life’s Ann Thomas Presbyterian Apartments in Philadelphia, goes shopping thanks to the Cupboards of Care program. Photo courtesy of Presby’s Inspired Life.


That is no longer the case, thanks to the Presby’s Inspired Life Cupboards of Care program.

Since its inception in 2016, Cupboards of Care has helped residents in Presby’s affordable housing communities throughout the greater Philadelphia area fulfill their nutritional needs and develop healthier heating habits by supplying the residents with gift cards to local supermarkets. These gift cards are funded with the assistance of the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust and other local funders.

“Since I started with the Cupboards of Care program, I’ve lost 20 pounds, and my blood pressure is much better,” Nowell says. “I’m now cooking healthier meals and feel really good about what I’ve accomplished since this program started.”

According to a 2015 report on hunger in Philadelphia, conducted by the Public Health Management Corporation, more than 32,000 seniors report that they cut out meals due to a lack of money. The survey also indicated that seniors find it difficult to find fresh vegetables and fruits in their neighborhoods.

Combine that with the fact that more than 73% of residents in Presby’s sponsored affordable housing communities report annual incomes below $10,000 a year, and the problem is evident.

Presby’s Office of Philanthropy and Mission Support recognized these health-related challenges, particularly healthy eating issues, facing residents in affordable housing. In response, it teamed up with representatives from the organization’s affordable housing group to identify residents in need who qualify for the program. All residents must show proof of purchase of healthy foods for continued participation.

“In the past year, we’ve been able to provide $100 gift cards to 58 residents each quarter,” says Lynn Johnson-Porter, vice president of philanthropy at Presby’s Inspired Life. “The goal is to help mitigate food insecurities and to provide financial support for individuals across Presby’s affordable housing communities, so they may purchase healthier food items. Approximately 150 residents are currently participating in the program. This is just another way our ministry is working to provide better lives for older adults, and we’d really like to reach even more individuals.”

To date, more than $117,000 has been raised for the program.

Unidine Lifestyles, the organization’s food services vendor, plays an integral role in fortifying the teaching aspects of the Cupboards of Care program.

Unidine offers nutritional counseling sessions administered by a certified dietitian to participating residents. These sessions raise residents’ awareness of the importance of making the most of a limited shopping budget, avoiding food additives, understanding product labels and preparing quick, healthy meals.

“It is certainly possible to eat healthy while living on a budget,” says Brianna Waldie, a regional dietitian with Unidine, which, as part of the Cupboards of Care program, conducts site visits and cooking demonstrations at Presby’s affordable housing communities.

“My doctor recently congratulated me for losing weight,” says Gloria, who lives at Riverside Apartments in Center City Philadelphia. “I did so by eating more fresh veggies and fruit.”

“Cupboards of Care is a beautiful program,” says Lin, who calls St. John Neumann Place in South Philadelphia home. “It has helped me eat healthier and reduce my diabetes medication.”

With the additional assistance from gracious, generous funders, the Cupboards of Care program is making an impact that is changing lives in our communities forever.

Melissa Fordyce is director of communications for Presby’s Inspired Life.