“It could probably help someone else but not me”: A feasibility study of a snack programme offered to meals on wheels clients

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Abstract

Objectives

Community-based services, such as Meals on Wheels (MOW), allow older adults to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Many MOW recipients experience decreased appetite that limits intake at mealtimes. This pilot study aimed to determine the feasibility of providing high protein high energy snacks to improve nutrient intakes of MOW clients in a regional centre of New South Wales, Australia.

Participants

A convenience sample of 12 MOW clients.

Intervention

Participants received snacks five times a week, in addition to their usual MOW order, for four weeks.

Measurements

Nutritional status was assessed using the Mini Nutritional Assessment tool. Pre-post changes in dietary intake were assessed using a diet history and food frequency questionnaire. Qualitative interviews conducted in clients’ homes were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and themes identified.

Results

Post-intervention, there was a trend for an increased energy (mean = +415kJ (SD=1477) /day) and protein (+7.2 (+14.06) g/day) intake. MNA scores significantly increased (P= 0.036) and proportion of respondents categorised as ‘malnourished’ or ‘at risk of malnutrition’ decreased from 17% to 8%, and 67% to 25%, respectively (P <0.05). Mean body weight increased from 67.1 (+14.3) to 67.8 (+14.8) (P= 0.008), while Body Mass Index (BMI) increased by a mean of 0.78 (±1.16) kg/m2 (P = 0.039). Only half of participants indicated interest in continuing with the program. Reasons included the role of snacks serving as a reminder to eat, as well as their perceived nutritional value. Identified barriers included perceived lack of need for additional food, ability to self-provide such items, and a perceived adequate health status.

Conclusion

Provision of an additional daily mid-meal snack may be a useful addition to existing MOW services, for improved energy and protein intakes. However, not all MOW clients at risk of malnutrition perceived the snacks to be beneficial to them.