May 28, 2015
by Colleen Callahan

Donna is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. She’s 76 years old and lives in a farmhouse in rural Maine. She spins wool, knits, grows her own food and tends to a few animals she keeps in her barn. She gets wool from her sheep and eggs from her chickens. Donna tries to provide for herself as much as possible in her retirement because she is used to being independent. She worked hard her entire life, yet in her golden years she’s left to live on a small social security check that is simply not enough. So in addition to growing some of her own food, Donna relies on her local food pantry to get the nutritious staples she needs.

While Donna has many unique aspects to her story, the same fabric weaves throughout the stories of many seniors in America today. There are 5.3 million seniors in the U.S. who struggle with hunger. After a lifetime of hard work, many are living on fixed incomes that don’t provide enough for them to get by.

And the situation is only looking worse. In the next 10 years, as the youngest of the Baby Boomers reach age 65, the number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase significantly. To prepare for the upcoming swell in demand, Feeding America creates best practice models to expand and improve senior-focused outreach and the service programs of food banks and feeding agencies.

One such best practice model is our Senior Grocery Program, which aims to provide nutritious, healthy food to older adults who are at-risk of hunger but mobile and have the ability to prepare their own food – much like Donna. While our goal is to solve hunger for all seniors, we specifically target this demographic because even though it’s easy to think of all seniors as immobile, in reality nearly 80 percent of food-insecure seniors have the ability pick up and cook their own food.

To reach the remaining 20 percent, senior fixed and mobile food pantries enable older individuals and their families to access produce and other groceries at convenient locations to minimize transportation issues. Some programs deliver groceries and meals directly to the homes of older adults and others who are homebound or have impaired mobility. Additionally, the Feeding America network reaches older individuals through food distributions and meal service programs held at senior centers and other organizations that interface with vulnerable older adults, such as group homes or long-term residential programs. We also often look to partner with organizations like Meals on Wheels America so that no senior goes hungry.

Through our Senior Grocery Program we aim to increase access to food that is appropriate to the nutritional needs of seniors, such as the foods we suggested for a senior food drive. We also aim to create an avenue for providing additional resources about services available for older Americans – such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and nutrition education.

Interested in learning more about the Senior Grocery Program or how seniors are served in your community? It varies from place to place, so we suggest finding and contacting your local food bank for more information.

Working together we can meet the growing need and make sure every senior in America has the food they need to not only live through – but enjoy – their golden years.

Senior Grocery*Colleen Callahan is the communication manager and content producer at Feeding America.

Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Senior Hunger , Maine

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