In 1996, The World Food Summit defined food security as the state “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. To gather some inspiration for this blog post I asked friends what came to mind when they heard the term “senior food insecurity”. They all admitted they didn’t really know much (or anything) about it.
Food insecurity is a one of the biggest issues many senior households face. It’s important to take a minute to address some misconceptions about senior hunger.
Myth 1: Food insecurity is not that big of a deal.
Reality:Food insecurity is a huge deal. According to a joint report by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, each year 1 in 12 seniors across the country experience food insecurity. The number of food insecure seniors more than doubled between 2001 and 2011 and will continue to rise if the issue is not addressed.
Food insecure seniors are at a greater risk for heart attacks, heart failure, developing asthma, and depression. Low- income seniors are especially vulnerable to the effects of food insecurity.
Myth 2: According to some studies seniors have the highest income compared to other age groups, there is no way they can struggle with food insecurity.
Reality: 2.8 million households with seniors experienced food insecurity and 1.1 million households composed of seniors living alone experience food insecurity. While it is true that some seniors may have more networth, it is also important to note that the number of seniors living at or below the poverty level is also increasing. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging over 3.9 million elderly persons were below the poverty level in 2012.
While low-income seniors are more at risk of experiencing food insecurity, a study by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger found that the adverse effects of food insecurity are present among all seniors, regardless of income level. This means that not only are all seniors susceptible to food insecurity, all seniors that face it are at risk for negative health implications.
Myth 3: Seniors have benefits to protect them from food insecurity.
Reality: Elderly households are much less likely to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same. Studies have found that if more seniors enrolled in SNAP benefits the number of food insecure senior households would shrink. To learn more about SNAP benefits and seniors check out the National Coalition on Aging.
Reality:Nonprofit organizations provide some of the best tools that are needed to combat senior food insecurity. Unfortunately, there is more need out there than there is support.
This past May, in honor of Older Americans month, Feeding America launched the #SolveSeniorHunger campaign to raise awareness about food insecurity among seniors. Here is a step by step video by the Golden sisters of how to take a selfie. Share one with us!
Here’s how H.O.M.E. helps #SolveSeniorHunger. Our Shopping Bus program partners with senior housing buildings throughout Chicago to improve senior access to healthy, fresh foods.
Our bus driver helps the seniors onto the wheelchair accessible bus and drives them to their local grocery store where they can purchase food, medication, and other household items essential to their well-being. After they are done shopping, seniors are assisted back onto the bus with bags in hand and driven safely back home where they are assisted into their homes. This is especially important because 57% of riders require the use of mobility aids such as walkers.
Our Shopping Bus serves older adults living in 35 affordable senior buildings throughout Chicago. Many of the buildings served by the Shopping Bus are located in food deserts located in Chicago’s South and West Sides.
The mission of the shopping bus is, very simply, to provide increased access to grocery stores, and therefore fresh foods. In addition to increased access to food, ensuring food security for the seniors, this service also allows our clients to maintain a sense of independence. At H.O.M.E., we understand that maintaining independence and being a part of a community are essential for seniors.