Did you know that hunger among American seniors is at a crisis point?
Food insecurity exists whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.
This is the way we now describe hunger for many seniors who are unable to acquire adequate food for whatever reason, not including a personal choice to not eat (such as dieting).
In 2011, 8.4% of households with seniors (2.5 million) were estimated to be food insecure. The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.
Senior Food Insecurity
Studies suggest that food insecurity occurs among seniors who 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. They perhaps can afford it but have no way to get to the grocery store, carry the food back, get it up the stairs into the house, cook it once it is there or are healthy enough to feed themselves or chew foods well.
Often seniors, especially those living on a fixed income, are forced to choose between paying rent, buying prescriptions drugs needed to manage chronic diseases or purchase adequate, nutritious food. In 2010, 8.7% of seniors (3.6 million) lived below the poverty line.
According to the Senior Hunger Report published by Meals on Wheels, hunger in the general population has declined but rose in those over 60 years. The threat is greatest for those living in southern states, disabled, and aged 60-69.
Specifically, in 2010 we find that 14.9% of seniors, or more than 1 in 7, face the threat of hunger or food insecurity. This is 8.3 million seniors. From 2001 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing hunger or food insecurity increased by 78%. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing food insecurity has increased by a third.
Because food insecurity is associated with a host of poor health outcomes for seniors, we need to take action to help feed hungry seniors.
How to Help
The statistics and the jargon about why our seniors are hungry can be overwhelming. Perhaps your own senior loved one is experiencing food insecurity and is at greater risk for impaired nutrition and health.
To the rescue is the Meals on Wheels national program, which helps feed our seniors everyday whether they’re in senior centers or home delivery, by serving over one million meals a day. They provide nutritious meals delivered directly to the door of your senior in need. Most of the delivery people are volunteers who become champions and friends of the seniors they serve. It has been called the largest volunteer army in the world.
Our own grandparents were Meals on Wheels volunteers for over 20 years and found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences they had the opportunity to do over their life. Our grandfather would joke that he helped some ‘youngsters’ who needed the 85 year old man (he volunteered until he was 87!). We know that our grandparents benefited greatly by their interaction with those seniors they served every week as much or more than those they helped.
Naturally, we don’t all have the time to be a volunteer and deliver the meals. If you do, they need your help! You can also donate directly to the organization.
Here is another new and exciting way you can show your support for this worthwhile organization and your senior too. You can purchase Made With Love: The Meals On Wheels Family Cookbook for yourself, as gifts for caregivers or for friends who love to cook (or just the celebrities whose recipes are featured!).
There are many celebrities including poets, chefs, politicians and actors who share family or their own favorite recipes including Maya Angelou, Chef Mario Batali, Barbara Bush, Paula Dean, Linda Gray, Martha Stewart, Al Roker and even Big Bird.
We think this is a great way to share by not only buying books to support the organization but also sharing memories with senior loved ones and other family members by making traditions with these new recipes.
Ending hunger and food insecurity in our nation’s seniors is a worthy goal we hope everyone will support!