Seniors Are the Fastest-Growing Food Insecure Population in the United States. Here’s How You Can Help.
At PORCH, we focus a lot on hunger relief for families and children – after all, 10% of U.S. households in the United States are food insecure, and those households include 10 million children. At the same time, many don’t realize that senior citizens make up the fastest-growing food insecure population in the United States.
Seniors Experiencing Hunger up 65%
Since the start of the recession in 2007, the number of seniors experiencing hunger has increased by 65%. Nearly 9 million older Americans are unsure about where they will find their next meal. The problem is projected to get worse as our population ages and the cost of living increases: 58 million Americans are 60 or older. By 2060, that number is expected to double.
In my state, the senior hunger problem is among the worst in the nation. One in every five North Carolina seniors over 65 are at risk, compared to the national average of one in six. Brunswick County – where I live, work at a senior center, and founded the local PORCH South Brunswick chapter – ranks number one in North Carolina in population of those age 65 or older: 31.5%. In fact, North Carolina has more seniors aged 60 and up than children younger than 18.
Food Insecurity Correlates with Declines in Health
Studies point to a correlation between household food insecurity and a decline in functional health, creating barriers to self-care management for those with chronic conditions. Food-insecure seniors are 262% more likely to experience depression, 78% more likely to experience asthma, 74% more likely to experience diabetes, 71% more likely to experience congestive heart failure, and 64% more likely to experience a heart attack.
Programs addressing this crisis include senior nutrition programs, home-delivered meal programs (such as Meals on Wheels), SNAP, food banks and pantries, community gardens, farmers markets, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and faith-based groups.
Ways to Pitch In
So, how can PORCH volunteers help fight senior hunger? (Not a current volunteer? Find your nearest PORCH chapter.) If you don’t have a PORCH chapter in your local area, the PORCH Communities team can help you start one. In addition to raising awareness, your chapter can reach out to your local senior center, community center, food pantry, or Meals on Wheels to ask if they have a need for senior-friendly food donations. A few tips when donating to seniors:
- Seniors often require food packaged in single servings
- Choose pop-top cans that are easy to open
- Select low-sodium, low-fat, low-sugar, and non-spicy items
- Avoid products with large nuts, as seniors often have issues with their teeth.
- Donate ready-to-eat soups and stews, individual snack packs, Boost and Ensure, breakfast bars, individual cereal boxes, canned vegetables, and small bottles of water
Thank you for doing your part to end the hunger epidemic for seniors and for our nation as a whole!