Our research on food insecurity among seniors aims to identify the prevalence of senior hunger and to understand their unique needs, characteristics, and risk factors. The research studies highlighted on this page are used to inform our programs and efforts to eliminate senior hunger.
The State of Senior Hunger in America
The State of Senior Hunger in America report series documents the prevalence of food insecurity among the senior population age 60 and older in the United States. It identifies the geographic variation in food insecurity among seniors, providing data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The most recent report, released in 2018 using 2016 data, found that 4.9 million seniors, or 7.7% of the senior population, were food insecure in 2016. An additional 3.7 million seniors experienced marginal food security. Click here to see the infographic about senior hunger.
From 2004 to 2016, the rate and number of food-insecure seniors declined. However, the rate of food insecurity among seniors remains significantly higher than it was in 2007. The current number of seniors who are food insecure is more than double what it was in 2001.
This report was produced by Feeding America and jointly released with the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. Dr. Craig Gundersen and Dr. James Ziliak conducted the research using data from the Current Population Survey.
A report about health implications for food-insecure seniors was published in 2017, entitled The Health Consequences of Senior Hunger in the United States: Evidence from the 1999-2014 NHANES. The report found food-insecure seniors consumed fewer calories and lower quantities of key nutrients than food-secure seniors. It also found that food insecurity among seniors was associated with health conditions such as depression, asthma, and high blood pressure.
Two additional briefs were published using data from the 2017 release of The State of Senior Hunger.
The brief Spotlight on Senior Hunger identified national and state-level trends in senior food insecurity. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of food insecure seniors in the United States more than doubled. Senior food insecurity varies considerably by state, ranging from 3.7 percent in Virginia to 12.9 percent in Arkansas. This brief also examines some determinants of senior food insecurity, including race/ethnicity, age, income, and living with a disability, revealing that food insecurity disproportionately affects particular segments of the senior population.
The brief Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans documents the health and nutrition implications of food insecurity among seniors aged 60 and older. The study reveals that senior food insecurity is associated with lower nutrient intake and an increased risk for chronic health conditions.
Compared to food secure seniors, food insecure seniors are:
- 60 percent more likely to experience depression
- 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
- 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
- 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure