On Lok Mission Nutrition meals do more than nourish bodies: they are also helping older adults manage their health conditions and improve their quality of life.

Lilia Cardenas, an On Lok 30th Street Senior Center participant and volunteer, has benefited from the meal program on both fronts.

“I consider myself the perfect testimonial for On Lok Mission Nutrition because these meals helped me come back to life after my stroke,” says Lilia. “At the time, I didn’t even know I had high blood pressure, and that it was the leading cause of strokes. When I was released from the hospital, my doctor said I had to completely change my diet to get better and stay healthy, but I didn’t know how to go about it.”

At On Lok 30th Street Senior Center, Lilia found meals designed by nutritionists for people who had diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as health promotion classes that helped her understand her condition and take charge of her health.

“My On Lok Mission Nutrition meals are prepared with no or low amount of salt, cooked with little fat or steamed, and served in the right portion size. Everything is balanced to prevent another stroke and to support my health and recovery,” says Lilia. “The food is good, too. I like carnitas, and the burrito today was delicious. But I eat everything they give me, with gratitude. I don’t have to worry about having the money to eat right, because here fresh quality food is accessible to all.”

Lilia feels like a walking advertisement for the meal program, which prepared and served 604,000 meals for home delivery and senior centers last year. “I left the hospital unable to walk and now I come to the center six times a week, on my own, to have lunch, she says. “I try to never skip a day because when I don’t eat at the center, my blood pressure goes up.”

Lilia’s doctors are amazed by her progress. “At my last checkup, they took me off five pills. They asked me, ‘What are you doing, what are you eating?’ They could not believe my progress. Before coming to the center, I didn’t know what a stroke was and how to take care of myself. Now I have recovered almost 90 percent of my function. I actually gave my doctors some pamphlets about On Lok Mission Nutrition,” says Lilia.