Evidence Summary

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There is limited evidence on the most cost-effective home-delivered meals programs for older adults

Campbell A, Godfryd A, Buys D, et al.  Does participation in home-delivered meals programs improve outcomes for older adults? Results of a systematic review  Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2015; 34(2): 124–167.

Review question

Does participation in home-delivered meals programs improve outcomes for older adults?


In recent years, the proportion of older adults in the United States has increased simultaneously with the demand for home-delivered meals.

The participation in home-delivered meal programs may contribute positively to the health and independence of older adults, particularly those who are vulnerable (for example, those who are low income and have multiple chronic illnesses).

The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the impact and costs of home-delivered meals programs for older adults. In doing so, the review hopes to reveal the best practices or areas for improvement of current home-delivery meals programs.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted was conducted to find relevant studies published in or prior to 2015. Studies that focused on home-delivered meals were included in the review.

A total of 11,570 studies were identified in searches and 80 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the National Institute on Aging in the United States.

What the researchers found

Most studies identified were descriptive and did not report on outcomes. 

The most commonly reported outcome of home-delivered meals programs was nutritional status based on self-reported dietary intakes.

Other studies investigated the relationship between home-delivered meals programs and disease and disability/functional status as well as poverty status and food security. Research evidence was limited in these areas.

Studies focusing on home-delivered meals to older adults were mostly cross-sectional, had a small sample size, and/or were limited to a particular setting or participant population.


More robust research is needed to: 1) understand why so few eligible older adults access home-delivered meals programs, 2) support expansion of home-delivered meals to all eligible older adults, 3) better identify what home-delivered meals models works best and for whom, and 4) better target home-delivered meals programs where and when resources are scarce.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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