The PDF for the issue in which this article appears can be found here.
In mid-May of this year, The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) and Feeding America released The State of Senior Hunger in America 2016: An Annual Report. This statistic-filled report, which has been published since 2012, indicates that food insecurity is increasing among older Americans. Data in the most recent report shows that in 2016, 4.9 million seniors or 7.7 percent of America’s population age 60 and older were food insecure. An additional 3.7 million seniors experienced marginal food security. Although food insecurity has declined recently, it remains substantially above the rate reported in 2007 (6.3 percent).
These findings should concern lawyers, policymakers, caregivers and anyone who works with aging issues because food insecure seniors are at much greater risk of suffering from diabetes, depression, congestive heart failure and asthma than their better fed contemporaries.
Recent efforts to limit Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits for low income seniors in proposed legislation such as the 2018 Farm Bill, which is presently stalled in the House of Representatives, could make this situation much worse. The Farm Bill is scheduled to be rewritten and reintroduced as early as June 22 of this year. In addition, the nation’s healthcare crisis combined with the anticipated steep increase of baby boomer retirees and the decline of the traditional pension will cause further increases in the number of older Americans that suffer food insecurity.
The report is based on original research conducted by Dr. James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig G. Gundersen of the University of Illinois. In examining the extent of the threat of hunger nationally among seniors in 2016, the report also provides the rates of senior hunger in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Among the researchers’ findings are:
Seniors who are racial or ethnic minorities, low-income or age 60-69 were most likely to be affected by some level of food insecurity.
• “White seniors have food insecurity rates that are substantially less than half the rates for African -American seniors…Hispanics (of any racial category) have food insecurity rates which are generally twice the rates of non-Hispanics.
• Seniors who reported a disability were disproportionately affected, with 24 percent reporting food insecurity.
• Senior food insecurity rates vary by state, ranging from 3.4% in North Dakota to 14.1% in Louisiana. Seniors living in the South are more likely to experience food insecurity than seniors living in other parts of the country.
An infographic summary of the Report may be viewed at http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/senior-hunger-research/senior-hunger-infographic.pdf
All images in this article courtesy of Feeding America.