Seniors Face Food Insecurity
Food insecurity — or, put more simply, not knowing where the next meal is coming from — is a growing problem among senior Americans.
In 2012, almost 9% of households with seniors experienced food insecurity. Among all clients served by Feeding America, 8 percent were seniors over 65 and 14% of adults interviewed at emergency feeding programs were 65 or older.
The number of older Americas will double between 2000 and 2040, to nearly 80 million. Feeding America projects that by 2025 the number of food insecure seniors will have grown by 50% over current numbers.
Senior Food Insecurity Is Real, Based on Historical Patterns
The 2001-2007 Current Population Survey (CPS) reported that, in an average year, 5.7 percent of seniors — some 2.7 million — were at risk of hunger. “Senior Hunger in the United States,” released by Meals on Wheels Association of America, Inc., reports that, “… millions of seniors continue to be at-risk of hunger in the United States. In 2007 alone, over 3 million seniors were at-risk. Second, in 2007 there were 200,000 more seniors at-risk of hunger than in 2006 and 700,000 more than in 2001. This increase is before the trough of the current economic downturn is realized, and thus ongoing monitoring of food insecurity among seniors in coming years is especially warranted.”
What Contributes to Senior Food Insecurity?
A recent press release from the Pennsylvania chapter of AARP estimated that 330,000 people in Philadelphia struggle with food insecurity every day. “In communities across the city, trusted organizations have been doing a heroic job of helping those who struggle with hunger, but the number of people in crisis is growing every day. AARP sees this more in homes where people 50-64 are not Medicare eligible, homes where grandparents are raising grandchildren, and people who are living at or below the poverty level,” Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania State Director.
Growing food insecurity among seniors is linked to:
• Medicare ineligibility
• Grandparents who are raising grandchildren
• People who are living at or below poverty level
• People who live in a southern state
• Lack of transportation
• Health problems
• Functional limitations (for example, difficulty preparing food)
Acquiring Food Isn’t the Only Problem Seniors Face
An inability to access or prepare food contributes to the problem. A 2003 study reported in the Journal of Nutrition states that the experience of elderly food insecurity has four components: quantitative, qualitative, psychological and social. “Inability to obtain the right foods for health is a new element specific to elders. Common to each of these components are dimensions of severity, time, and compromised food choice.”
Feeding America puts it this way, “… food insecure seniors sometimes had enough money to purchase food but did not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems.”