In a country of such abundance, it seems unthinkable that anyone should be without enough to eat, but according to a new study by the non-profit Feeding American, 5.5 million older adults are struggling with food insecurity.
The Chicago-based organization says the hunger crisis among senior citizens is often overlooked because many older adults are too proud to ask for help when they can’t make ends meet and must sacrifice groceries in order to pay for housing or medications. If something doesn’t change soon, it is estimated that by 2050, the number of seniors suffering food insecurity in the United States could reach 8 million.
Older adults living in rural communities are more likely to skip meals and have difficulty finding resources to help meet their nutritional needs. Food pantries and government programs can help, but more education and funding is needed to make sure seniors are able to access these services. In the U.S., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has a number of programs that offer help for low-income seniors including the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program which gives older adults at risk for food insecurity access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs.
Hunger among the nation’s seniors is a growing problem; nearly one in every six seniors faces the threat of food insecurity. And poor nutrition can lead to serious medical problems; seniors who live in poverty are more likely to develop an illness like diabetes, cancer or heart disease. Without access to nutritious foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, older adults turn to canned, processed and packaged foods that don’t provide adequate nutrients to support health. When seniors can no longer drive and don’t have reliable access to transportation, the risk for food insecurity increases.
To learn more about ending hunger among older adults, follow this link to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger or contact your local Meals on Wheels program.