1 in 12 Seniors is Going Hungry
Often times when we think of the face of hunger we think of the nearly 16 million children that live in food insecure households – we don’t often think of the elderly. The truth is that more than 5.3 million senior citizens are affected by hunger, that is 1 in 12.
With the number of older adults projected to increase by 35 percent over the next decade, nutrition programs targeted at seniors will be critical to safeguarding the health of this vulnerable population. Many of these older americans have worked their entire lives to provide for their families, are retired, volunteer their time and never expected that at this stage of their lives they would be unsure of where their next meal is coming from.
Older Americans don’t often ask for help.
At the St. Louis Area Foodbank we see this first hand. We receive phone calls, when they have nowhere else to turn, regarding signing up for SNAP benefits. And that is only a handful; many households may not even realize they qualify for benefits. At local food fairs we meet older american volunteers who assist us for hours loading pounds of food into hundreds of cars only to end their day driving through the same line to stock their own cupboards.
The sad truth is that in our 26-county service territory, of Missouri and Illinois, 14% of the people we serve are age 60 or older. Many of these individuals, at this stage of their life, are having to choose between paying for food or buying essential medicines. In fact, 71% of the people we serve have had to make that choice in the last year.
We must urge our members of Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA) as it celebrates it’s 50th year.
The Older Americans Act funds critical services that keep older adults healthy and independent, and provide needed support for seniors facing food insecurity.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
A program implemented by the St. Louis Area Foodbank, is a commodity-based program, providing nutritionally-balanced, shelf-stable food packages to 8,800 in seven counties in Missouri and two in Illinois. Last year the St. Louis Area Foodbank distributed over 103,300 CSFP boxes to low-income seniors.
CSFP is the only USDA nutrition program that provides monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors. CSFP must be funded each year through the annual federal appropriations process and can only serve as many eligible people as funding allows. As a result, CSFP only operates in 46 states and is unable to serve all eligible seniors in these states.Congress has a duty to provide adequate funding to expand CSFP nationwide to serve all eligible seniors.