Feeding America is committed to addressing senior hunger by supporting food banks in their efforts to meet the needs of seniors through food assistance and other services. Through applied research and evaluation, we seek to gather important data and insights from our network and directly from seniors. In 2018, Feeding America partnered with University of South Carolina researchers to conduct one of the largest qualitative study on seniors in more than a decade, titled An Evaluation Report: Senior Food-Assistance, Related Programming, and Seniors' Experiences Across the Feeding America Network. An executive summary is available here. These findings can inform future programming as well as new, innovative solutions to senior food insecurity.
Highlights from the Exploratory Research
This study raises the voices of seniors as well as dedicated staff and partners managing programs that benefit food insecure seniors. Key themes emerged from this study, as outlined below.
One key theme was the balance providers have to strike between reach and specificity in their service to seniors. Some programs were able to reach a large number of seniors but did not always accommodate specific senior needs. Others served a small number of seniors and targeted specific barriers they faced in obtaining healthy food.
We also learned that the major barriers seniors faced in obtaining and cooking nutritious foods fell into three broad categories: mobility, food consumption, and transportation. For example, we saw that food insecure seniors' food consumption is often restricted for a variety of reasons, including dietary restrictions for health reasons and physical limitations in preparing food like arthritis.