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Food Bank is a Partner of Feeding America

Senior Hunger

The following is data from Feeding America's 2009 comprehensive study of hunger in America published in the reportHunger in America 2010:

As a nation, we have a special responsibility to vulnerable populations such as the elderly. Food insecurity among this vulnerable population is especially troublesome because they have unique nutritional needs and may require special diets for medical conditions. 

The following are some key findings from the study regarding the elderly in our country:

  • Nearly 3 million elderly persons are served by Feeding America (member programs) each year. 18.6 percent of client households have at least one member who is age 65 or over, and 52 percent of these households are food insecure - an estimated 1.2 million households.
  • Among all clients served by Feeding America, 8 percent were seniors age 65 or over while 14.2 percent of adult clients interviewed at emergency feeding programs were 65 or older.
  • Among all client households with at least one senior, 10.5 percent use senior brown bag programs, 16.5 percent attend senior nutrition sites (such as senior centers that serve lunch) and 6.6 percent receive home-delivered meals or meals-on-wheels.
  • 30 percent of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 35 percent had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities.

Other Facts:

  • 7.5 percent of households with seniors (2.2 million households) were food insecure. [ii].
  • 8.9 percent of the elderly live below the poverty line, 3.4 million older Americans [iii].
  • Elderly households are much less likely to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same [v].
  • Seniors require greater consideration towards their health and medical needs that can become compromised when there is not enough food to eat. A study which examined the health and nutritional status of seniors found that food insecure seniors had significantly lower intakes of vital nutrients in their diets when compared to their food secure counterparts. In addition, food insecure seniors were 2.33 times more likely to report fair/poor health status and had higher nutritional risk [vi].
  • For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger is 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 [vii].

[i] Rhoda Cohen, J., Mabli, F., Potter, Z., Zhao. Mathematica Policy Research, Feeding America. Hunger in America 2010.February 2010.

[ii] Nord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009. (ERR-49) November 2010.

[iii] DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, B.D. Proctor, J. Smith. U.S. Census Bureau. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. September 2010.

[v] United States Department of Agriculture/Office of Analysis, Nutrition, and Evaluation. Elderly Participation and the Minimum Benefit. November 2002.

[vi] Lee JS, Frongillo, Jr. EA. Nutritional and health consequences are associated with food insecurity among U.S. elderly persons. J. Nutr. 131: 1503-1509, 2001

[vii] Wolfe WS, Frongillo EA, Valois P. Understanding the experience of food insecurity by elders suggests ways to improve its measurement. J. Nutr. 133:2762-2769, 2003.