Aging and Still Struggling to Put Food on the Table by Eileen Hyde

May 10, 2013

Eileen Hyde, Feeding AmericaEileen Hyde is Manager of Program Capacity at Feeding America and wrote this post for the National Federation to End Senior Hunger.

Imagine working hard all of your life and retiring to an empty cupboard. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many older adults in our country, including Alberta and Ola, two women in Washington, D.C.

Alberta retired after spending 45 years working in the government and banking system. She lost her daughter to breast cancer and is now responsible for taking care of her daughter's son, an audio-video student at the Art Institute of Washington, D.C. Ola spent her years raising a family while her husband worked for both the railroad and post office. She's been receiving his pension since he passed from a massive heart attack in 1993.

In 2009, the two began attending MSB Community Outreach, a partner agency of the Capital Area Food Bank, after dealing with months of rising food costs. Ola receives $119 a month in food stamps to supplement her pension. Now that her two recently unemployed sons are living with her, Ola says that the food stamps, "…don't last a month, maybe two weeks after you contribute some cash out of your pocket."

"The economy has fallen," Alberta notes about the $130 of food stamps she receives. "With the prices of food so expensive, even with the food stamps it doesn't give you enough to last you the whole month."

This serious problem of senior hunger is not just isolated to our nation's capital. Each day food banks across the United States are seeing seniors struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity, serves 3 million seniors above the age of 65 annually, and more than half of these seniors visit a pantry on a monthly basis, the greatest frequency of any age group. Given this level of need and seniors' recurring use of emergency food assistance, Feeding America, together with many of our member food banks across the country are responding by:

  • Advocating to protect and strengthen the federal nutrition safety-net serving low-income seniors. Unfortunately during tough budget times, these programs have been targeted for cuts. It is critical that we work together to advocate for protecting programs that prevent senior hunger.
  • Partnering with aging service providers and other community stakeholders to increase seniors' access to food and raise awareness about the issue in their community. With limited resources and increased need, cultivating strong partnerships are essential for finding creative and innovative ways to address senior hunger.
  • Providing targeted Senior Grocery Programs and application assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to senior clients. Only one-third of eligible seniors participate in SNAP, compared to about three-fourths of the eligible general population. Increasing access to SNAP and Senior Grocery Programs help fill the gaps in nutrition services to seniors.

As our population ages, changing demographics will have a profound impact on the demand for social services, especially the need for nutrition assistance. In addition to strengthening our nutrition safety net to better meet current needs, we must also take steps now to ensure that it can evolve to meet future needs. That means strengthening partnerships with other senior services agencies to help inform and improve access to nutrition assistance. Working together, the nutrition and seniors' community can leverage each other's strengths to better meet the nutritional needs of our aging population and ensure that Ola and Alberta don't have to worry about where they will get their next meal.

With hunger among older adults on the rise, the need to provide nutrition assistance has never been more important. Together, we can create a hunger-free America where every senior has access to the nutritious food they need for healthy aging.

Help Feeding America end hunger by donating, advocating, and volunteering.





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