Helping Seniors Who Experience Hunger

Vicki McKeithen 001

According to the nation’s food bank network, Feeding America, the number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000. Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse. Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54% compared with 125 percent for older minorities (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. (2012). A profile of Older Americans: 2012).

These changing demographics will have profound impacts on the demand for social services, especially the need for adequate and culturally appropriate nutrition services. Seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population and must be considered.

  • Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income (Feeding America and National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH). (2014, March). Spotlight on Senior Health Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans).
    • 60% more likely to experience depression
    • 53% more likely to report a heart attack
    • 52% more likely to develop asthma
    • 40% more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure
  • 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 (Ziliak, J. & Gunderson, C. (2009, September). Senior Hunger in the United States: Differences across states and rural and urban areas.  University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Special Reports. http://www.mowaa.org/document.doc?id=193).

For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger can be more difficult than for the general population. For example, a study that focused on the experience of food insecurity among the elderly population found that 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 (Wolfe WS, Frongillo EA, Valois P. (2003). Understanding the experience of food insecurity by elders suggests ways to improve its measurement. J. Nutr. 133:2762-2769, 2003).

In a survey conducted with Emergency Food Box recipients in Lane County in April 2015, 11% of those receiving emergency food help were 65 or older. At FOOD for Lane County, we are addressing the needs of seniors with two crucial programs: the Senior Grocery Program and Meals on Wheels. In addition, we serve seniors in virtually all of our other programs. We are always in search of volunteers for Senior Grocery and Meals on Wheels, and we welcome your donations.