The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation and Meals on Wheels San Francisco will partner to improve the oral health of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable seniors, the organizations said, with a $500,000 grant to support operations and begin planning future work.
Seniors face unique oral health challenges but are unfortunately overlooked, Delta Dental said, noting that getting older should not mean that one has to live with oral health issues or tooth loss.
“Improving the oral health of older adults is a priority for the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of the foundation and corporate social responsibility at Delta Dental of California.
“Meals on Wheels of San Francisco is an incredible organization who can help us understand the challenges this group faces and work directly with vulnerable seniors to provide education, resources, and services,” Ferguson said.
Meals on Wheels already provides special diets for clients with challenges chewing or swallowing, making them a natural partner for Delta Dental to work with on issues related to vulnerable older adults and oral health, the organizations said.
The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation said it aims to find ways to understand the oral care challenges that older adults face and works with partners on solutions to address and remove those barriers.
“We are grateful to receive this grant, and we applaud Delta Dental for stepping up during a time of crisis for our vulnerable population of seniors living in the city,” said Ashley McCumber, CEO and executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco.
“Our partnership will allow us to provide education and other resources to our clients, helping them be more proactive about taking care of their oral health,” McCumber said.
Proper nutrition is essential to oral and overall health, and there are specific relationships between oral health and food insecurity that make this partnership especially relevant, the organizations said.
Food insecurity is linked to an increased risk of dental caries, they said, which causes tooth decay. Also, they said, missing teeth and other conditions that create pain in the mouth and jaw make eating difficult and affect the ability to receive proper nutrition.
March is March for Meals Month, when local Meals on Wheels programs recognize the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act in 1972, which paved the way for the funding of senior nutrition programs.
These programs, including San Francisco’s, invite local, state, and federal officials to deliver meals to the homes of seniors and raise awareness about food insecurity issues that older adults face today.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, other activities have been added including sending cards, making phone calls, and conducting video meetings with local and state officials. Delta Dental has provided 4,000 dental kits to Meals on Wheels clients and has sent about a thousand “thinking of you” cards.