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Published By Hilary Young on December 17, 2020

Food insecurity—limited access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy lifestyle—has become a growing issue in the United States, especially among seniors. According to “The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2018” report, more than 7% of seniors were food insecure in 2018. Unfortunately, as the population continues to age and the concentration of senior citizens increases, this figure is projected to grow, too.

Why are so many older adults struggling to eat?

Though every situation is unique, there are many factors that affect older adults’ ability to afford and access food. As the baby boomers age into retirement during a dwindling economy, less resources are available to help those who struggle. Budget cuts have led to existing programs being reduced or eradicated entirely, leaving many in the lurch. Additionally, as social and wealth disparity in America increase, the middle class grows smaller, and more and more people struggle to make ends meet. And for those who reside in food deserts—neighborhoods where people don’t have easy access to affordable healthy food options—fresh and nutritious food items can be severely limited, especially for seniors with mobility challenges or a lack of reliable transportation.

Other factors can make certain groups of older adults more vulnerable to food insecurity as well. According to a 2016 study, 24% of seniors who noted a disability reported to be food insecure, and a 2017 study reported that seniors living in southern states faced food insecurity at a higher rate than other regions in the U.S.

Resources for Older Adults Facing Food Insecurity

Fortunately, options do exist that can provide help for many older adults who struggle with financial or physical access to food. Some of the nationwide programs that address food insecurity for older adults include:

  • SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the largest federal program to help those facing food insecurity. Eligible individuals or families will receive assistance in the form of an EBT card, which can be used just like a debit card to purchase grocery items at participating stores. Eligibility is determined by income, but there are some special rules for seniors, making it easier for them to receive SNAP benefits.
  • OAANP: The Older Americans Act Nutrition Program serves adults ages 60 and over, prioritizing those who face economic hardship, live in rural communities, are at risk of institutional care, speak a language other than English, or identify as an ethnic minority. The program supplies home-delivered meals to eligible recipients, as well as organizes healthy meals in communal settings, such as senior centers. Additionally, they provide nutrition screening, education, and counseling services.
  • Medicare Advantage: While standard Medicare offers medical and hospital coverage to Americans over the age of 65, Medicare Advantage plans generally offer more resources, some of which include meal delivery. These plans must be purchased privately and may not be financially accessible for everyone, but they’re worth looking into if your limited mobility or disability prevents you from easily obtaining food.
  • Meals on Wheels: Located in hundreds of different communities nationwide, Meals on Wheels is a leading meal delivery service to low-income and food-insecure older adults. The cost of food is calculated based on income, and many dietary restrictions are taken into consideration: Meals are available for those with renal issues, for example, and those with difficulty chewing who require soft foods.

In a country blessed with abundance, it doesn’t seem right that anyone should go hungry. Should you or anyone you know be in need of meal assistance, don’t hesitate to seek help. In addition to the national programs listed above, many local and religious organizations provide relief to their hungry neighbors, proving that we are all stronger together as a community than as individuals suffering in silence.

Author Hilary Young

About the Author

Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50 and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.

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