BACKGROUND : The Chinese government is piloting canteen services for older adults, but few studies have explored the influence of canteen services on the health of these older adults. This study aimed to investigate the impact of canteen services on older adults' general mental health, nutritional status, satisfaction with life, and social capital in rural areas. METHODS : This study used a cross-sectional design. We selected 14 villages in Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province, China, including seven villages with canteen services and seven villages without canteen services. Participants were 284 senior older adults (aged 75~98), including 140 residing in villages with canteen services (Canteen Group [CG]) and 144 residing in villages without canteen services (Non-Canteen Group [NCG]). We also divided the CG into two sub-groups according to the funding sources (one receiving government support only, the other receiving government support plus enterprise donations). We used a self-designed questionnaire, including sociodemographics, diet-related items (e.g., satisfaction with the meals, diet expenditure, self-evaluation of meal nutrition), and the four scales including the Chinese version of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), the Chinese version of the Mini Nutritional Assessment Short-Form (MNA-SF), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), and the Social Capital Questionnaire (SCQ). RESULTS : The overall mental health, satisfaction with life, and social capital of the CG were better than the NCG (P < 0.05). The nutritional status of these two groups did not show a significant difference. Participants in the CG with financial support from local government and donations from an enterprise with a better dietary diversity exhibited a better nutritional status (P < 0.05); the average satisfaction with diet and self-evaluation of food nutrition of the CG were higher than the NCG (P < 0.05); the ratio of having a diet on time in the CG was higher than that of the NCG (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS : The free canteen services provided by the government can improve older adults' satisfaction with life and diet, and mental health status and also enrich their social capital, but this still needs to be future evidenced. More financial support for canteen services is an essential component in promoting successful aging in China.