May 10, 2012

Nearly four million U.S. seniors are food insecure. Many of these older Americans live on fixed incomes, and are often forced to choose between buying groceries or paying for health care, housing, or other basic essentials.

"Feeding America wants to highlight the increased and profound need for food assistance that affects so many of our senior citizens in need," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."May is Older Americans Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions our seniors have made to our nation, and to make doubly sure, that we are, in turn, doing all we can to help and support them, especially those who are facing difficulty making ends meet and accessing adequate nutrition."

"We are deeply concerned that as Congress looks for ways to reduce the deficit, cuts to nutrition assistance programs that help low-income seniors are on the table. Already this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Budget Resolution that would cut $133.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The House Agriculture Committee recently approved $36 billion in cuts to SNAP. While it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. Senate will act on these pieces of legislation, it nevertheless signals a disturbing trend during a time when the need for food assistance has never been higher," Escarra Said."Cuts to SNAP, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and other federal anti-hunger and nutrition programs would make it much harder for our food bank to safeguard local seniors from hunger, and we urge Congress to protect nutrition programs from cuts."

Food insecurity among seniors is especially troublesome because of their unique nutritional needs. Many require special diets for medical conditions. To meet these needs, many seniors at risk of hunger depend on local food pantries for help. Among food pantry clients 65 and older, more than half reported visiting a pantry on a monthly basis, according to the Feeding America's recently released report,"Food Banks: Hunger's New Staple". This suggests that the fixed incomes of elderly may be insufficient to provide for their basic needs.

Here are some current facts about senior hunger:

  • In 2010, nearly 8 percent of households with seniors (2.3 million households) were food insecure.
  • In 2009, nearly 4 million people over the age of 60 lived in food insecure households.
  • Seniors are more likely to be food insecure if they:
  • Live in a southern state
  • Live with a grandchild
  • Are African-American or Hispanic

For seniors, protecting themselves against food insecurity and hunger can be more difficult than for the general population. For example, a study found that food insecure seniors sometimes had enough money to purchase food, but did not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems.

Food insecure seniors have lower nutrient intakes than food secure seniors. The health outcomes for depression, general health, diabetes and limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) are also worse for food insecure seniors. Additionally, adequate nutrition is essential for preventing and managing chronic medical conditions. Even when controlling for income, there is a large difference in the rate of diabetes between food insecure and food secure seniors–28 percent versus 19 percent.

Without proper nutrition, seniors are at increased risk of disability, deteriorated health conditions, decreased resistance to infections, lengthened hospital stays, deteriorated mental health, and being underweight.

In February 2010, Feeding America released its fifth and most comprehensive study of hunger in the U.S.: Hunger in America 2010. The following are some key findings from the study regarding the seniors in our country:

  • Nearly 3 million seniors are served by Feeding America each year. Nearly 19 percent of households served by Feeding America have at least one member who is age 65 or older.
  • Among all client households with at least one senior, nearly 11 percent use senior brown bag programs, nearly 17 percent attend senior nutrition sites (such as senior centers that serve lunch) and nearly 7 percent receive home-delivered meals or meals-on-wheels.
  • 30 percent of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 35 percent had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities.


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