When people think about going hungry, most minds are driven to think about the homeless or poor. What people are generally unaware of is that there is a growing population of seniors going hungry. In 2016, 4.9 million seniors were reported as being food insecure and going hungry. To put that another way, 1 in 12 seniors struggle to bring food into the house, much less of the table. A 2001 study shows that there were 2.3 million seniors who were food insecure. That means the number of hungry seniors has more than doubled since then. We will dive into how this happened and what it means for seniors.
Most seniors after retirement do not have the appropriate amount of funds to financially support themselves. Some of this is a lack of planning or proper education on the subject. However, a lot of this is due to life expectancy increasing. Studies say life expectancy is 80 years old, when in reality, people are living far into their 80s and sometimes 90s. What this means is that seniors have an extra 10-20 years that they did not plan for. They do not have the money to support themselves in these situations. A lot of seniors have no choice, but to rely on the government for help in these situations. What most do not realize is that, although programs like Social Security and Supplemental Security Income are available for seniors, it cost about $2,000 a month. Pair that cost with any debt, recurring bills, and other payments, and you can start to see how money adds up.
The fact is that it is expensive to live. What doesn’t make living as a senior any easier is that most people do not want to hire “older" people. A senior is anyone as young as 50, and an “old" retiree can be as young as 60. 50 and 60-year-olds are not old or unable to do good work. They are capable of completing honest work, but they often struggle to convince hiring managers that they can complete the tasks at hand. A good portion of elderly people also suffer from illnesses, injuries, or other symptoms that make it impossible to work, even if they desire to.
This tragic reality means a lack of money to pay for necessities, like food. It is a decision no one should have to make, but monthly, 60% of our US seniors have to make a choice between paying utilities, or using that money to pay for food. This often leaves seniors without food. The food some are able to afford do not have the nutritional benefits that are needed in a balanced, healthy diet, especially at that age. That means the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and asthma increases. The stress of all this makes seniors more depressed and stressed. Again, not good for their health.
Thankfully, there are organizations that are working towards putting an end to this epidemic. Feeding America, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Meals on Wheels are some of these organizations. Feeding America brings awareness to the food insecurity issue. The site also gives access to nationwide food banks where you can make donations that will go towards giving someone the food they so desperately need. SNAP gives people assistance in getting the nutritional food that they need. It makes buying good food more affordable for those who need it. Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that provides meals to people who have no access to food. They are a food delivery service, which is especially helpful to seniors who are handicapped or unable to move much.
It’s crazy to think that in the same nation where we struggle with obesity, we also struggle to feed hungry people. The issue isn’t that we don’t have enough food. There is plenty of food, but it is not being delivered to the individuals and families that need it most. One way to combat this is by making money or food donations to help support non-profits and help spread the word about this issue. Although the amount of food insecure seniors has gone down, there still needs to be a drastic change.