The NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) is committed to ensuring that older New Yorkers can age in place while maintaining a high quality of life. DFTA operates the Home Delivered Meals Program, an integral component of their programming, with a network of community partners and contractors in order to provide seniors with access to high quality prepared meals. DFTA is currently in the process of revamping the program in order to incorporate recent innovations in food preparation and delivery protocols to ensure the quality, choice, and diversity of the meals they offer.
The Original Engagement
In a year-long engagement in 2013, Public Works Partners worked with the NYC Department for the Aging to manage a large-scale streamlining of operations with its contract service providers, from preparation through implementation. It was a formidable task; when Pubic Works began its engagement the “unit did not have a solid managerial infrastructure or viable leadership succession,” according to Scott Mason, the former Assistant Commissioner at DFTA.
Public Works was brought on at a transformative time within the Department. We were tasked with assessing the existing operations model and establishing a more streamlined approach to meal delivery. Among other questions, the Department was grappling with how to ensure continued quality of services while undergoing a “whole transition of [Home Delivered Meals] and transformation of the business model,” Mason said. “[We] needed to be consolidated (funding and operations) with no disruption, more diverse providers and food, more consistency.”
Michael Bosnick, Deputy Commissioner Bureau of Planning, Research, Evaluation & Training for DFTA added that “there are few programs that deliver meals at this scale.” This was an added layer of complexity when Public Works started on the project and remains a formidable factor in the Department’s operations today. To address all of these needs, we worked with the Bureau of Senior Centers to consolidate the number of contractors. We also worked with an intra-agency task force to develop milestones for the transition, manage planning and preparation internally and with community stakeholders, monitor progress throughout the process, and recommend operational changes during implementation to address shifting realities.
Ultimately, “Public Works assisted the department in streamlining their delivery offerings by narrowing down vendors to 13 contracts that would serve 10,000 individuals. Fewer vendors ensured a more consistent, uniformed and better quality meal service,” Bosnick said. Public Works was able to act in an oversight capacity to provide “continuity from [the] prior administration,” Mason added. “[Public Works] was a credible holdover with outside perspective, who wasn’t caught up in the daily grind of the division—[they] were able to focus on the transformation.” We advocated for the hiring of consultants, a move that added flexibility to the program, allowing for the shorter-term hiring of experts who could tackle specific tasks as needed. Most importantly, we oversaw the transition so that there was no interruption in service.
As is true for all nonprofit service providers in the city, the Department for the Aging has had to adjust operations for the Home Delivered Meals program over the past two months in order to ensure the safety of their workers and those they serve. While no new clients are being taken on during this time, DFTA is still meeting the needs of all existing clients, delivering freshly prepared meals across the city. The Department is also in the midst of an RFP, which they hope will improve the choices available to New Yorkers who depend on the Home Delivered Meals program. DFTA is working to incentivize providers to incorporate more culturally and religiously aligned meals into their menu offerings and to deliver the meals in more formats (i.e. hot, frozen, or fresh chilled). The RFP is also intended to decrease the number of hand-offs each meal goes through on its way to a recipient, ultimately creating an even more efficient system.
Image Credit: NY For Seniors