THERE’S A GROWING CONCERN ABOUT FOOD INSECURITY AMONG SENIORS IN AMERICA
In a just released report by Feeding America entitled, The State of Senior Hunger and Health in America in 2015, the national umbrella organization for America’s 200 food banks raises concerns about what seniors are consuming and how food insecurity can lead to numerous health issues as we age. Although the data isn’t startling and it draws conclusions that many in the health and human services are already aware of, the findings are still important especially, in relation to national policy that could severely impact seniors who rely on certain government entitlement programs like Medicare, SNAP, Social Security and Meals on Wheels to survive.
Food insecurity has been defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “a person or family having limited access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy lifestyle.” According to the Feeding America study, in 2015, 8.1% of seniors in America age 60 or older or 5.4 million seniors overall, were considered to be food insecure. When it comes to our senior population, having access to any type of food cannot be the primary focus of regional food banks like Long Island Cares. We must focus on nutritious food and meals that contain proper amounts of nutrients in order to improve a person’s overall health. For many seniors faced with food insecurity, the one nutritious meal that they receive from the Meals on Wheels program might be the only nutritious meal they eat all day. New York State ranks among the top ten states that have 10% or more of their senior population impacted by hunger and food insecurity. A majority of seniors who are food insecure and live alone have incomes above the federal poverty level of approximately $12,000 for a single person household. The reason that Long Island Cares’ Mobile Pantry Program and programs like Meals on Wheels are so important is that no senior living on Long Island can meet any of their needs on $12,000 a year without relying on the support of government and the nonprofit human services system. The Feeding America study also reports that 1 in 4 seniors who are food insecure also have some form of disability, and that nearly two-thirds (73%) of food insecure seniors are white and mostly women. The number of seniors who are able to live with other family members can reduce the incidence of food insecurity.
The major concern about seniors who are food insecure is that they do not have a nutrient-rich diet which is important for good health and well-being. These seniors are consuming fewer calories and lower amounts of nutrients and vitamins. If you have to choose between paying a utility bill and buying food chances are you’re going to pay your bills. After all, no one wants their heat shut off in the winter or for their electricity to be turned off. Seniors who have limited access to nutritious food have been shown to suffer from various illnesses including high blood pressure, chest pain, physical limitations and the majority have shown symptoms of depression.
As a society we need to do more for our seniors who live on limited incomes and those that live alone. Having access to Meals on Wheels, home delivery of groceries, visiting companions, senior day care and transportation can help significantly and might even be essential. There’s no reason for any senior to go hungry on Long Island. If you know someone 60 or older in need of nutritious food please call Long Island Cares at 631.582.FOOD. We can provide you with information and referral services as well as bringing the food right to your front door.
September 20, 2017