Cooking classes, access to benefits and healthy groceries are just some of the ways Feeding America is helping seniors facing hunger.
A growing number of seniors are living longer, staying active and pursuing their interests, goals, and dreams with uncommon vigor. However, more than 5 million seniors in America are facing hunger – a number that’s projected to double by 2050. Without consistent access to healthy food, many older Americans won’t be able to appreciate their golden years.
During May, Older Americans Month, Feeding America is spreading the word about senior hunger. As a leading provider of food assistance to seniors in the United States, Feeding America has witnessed an increased need for meals among older Americans and has made its largest investment to date in the development of senior hunger relief strategies and programs. This effort is made possible through the support of our partners.
In 2016, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation committed a $15 million donation to Feeding America, of which $12 million was designated for investments in senior hunger initiatives. This is the largest donation of its kind in Feeding America’s history. A portion of the funds is supporting Feeding America food banks as they seek to solve senior hunger in their communities and share best practices related to these efforts across the Feeding America network. Other generous partners have also demonstrated their commitment to seniors in need. In honor of Older Americans Month, Consumer Cellular has donated more than 2.5 million meals to Feeding America to help seniors and families struggling with hunger.
With investments from key partners, Feeding America food banks have developed creative and impactful programs that offer seniors the food they need to stay healthy and strong. Following are a few of the innovative senior hunger-relief programs established across the nation.
Delivering Tailored Cooking Classes to Seniors in Need
As part of its Feeding Seniors Initiative, Second Harvest Inland Northwest provides cooking classes to local seniors like Edwin and Deb in its new state-of-the-art teaching kitchen. These classes help older members of their community learn new cooking skills while also encouraging socialization. In the classes, trained AmeriCorps members and volunteer Nutrition Ambassadors teach seniors how to prepare simple, healthy meals that are easy to chew, high in key nutrients like protein or fiber, and tailored to the seniors’ palates.
Reaching Seniors through Cross-Sector Collaboration
Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has partnered with several local organizations to create Ending Senior Hunger in Alabama (ESHA), a cross-sector collaboration of food banks, senior centers, farmers markets, and other partners, to address senior hunger through multiple interventions. One of ESHA’s goals is to expand a Benefits Enrollment Center established by Feeding the Gulf Coast to help seniors navigate the application process for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Medicare Savings Plan and Senior Farmers Market Vouchers. Because individuals can call the center directly from home, the program is especially effective in rural areas, overcoming barriers such as limited transportation and lack of access to technology.
Delivering Therapeutic Food Boxes to Food-Insecure Seniors
The Food Bank of South Jersey is fighting senior hunger through several initiatives, including its flagship Therapeutic Food Pantry program. As part of this program, the food bank has partnered with four major hospitals to provide recently discharged patients – many of whom are elderly, low-income and/or facing hunger – with therapeutic food boxes to help them improve their health. These boxes are directly delivered to the recipients’ homes and contain two weeks’ worth of nutrient-rich, easy-to-prepare meals along with recipes and other nutritional resources tailored to each individual’s medical needs. Recipients also receive information about their nearest food pantry in an effort to connect them with a sustainable, long-term meal source.
Older Americans are making the most of their lives, and in doing so they’re eliminating outdated perceptions about aging. Yet seniors still grapple with a host of challenges. Many choose between food and medicine to get by, not realizing that there are food assistance programs available that can help. In the midst of these difficulties, Feeding America is dedicated to offering seniors the food they need to stay healthy and strong. One day at a time, we’re getting closer to solving senior hunger.
Want to make a difference for seniors facing hunger? Get the facts and learn how you can help.
*Photos provided courtesy of Second Harvest Inland Northwest and The Food Bank of South Jersey.