Addressing Senior Hunger

Food insecurity and poverty are serious problems among seniors. According to the most recent data, 8.1 percent of households with elderly members in them were food insecure in 2008. The rates double when seniors are raising children (e.g. when grandparents are raising grandchildren). One in five seniors had income below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.

Enough food, and health-sustaining food, is important to everyone, but it is especially important when people are particularly vulnerable to disease, or when their life circumstances – such as limited mobility– make obtaining a healthy diet more difficult. Food insecure elderly persons have been found to be 2.33 times more likely to report fair or poor health status.  Food insecurity among elders increases disability, decreases resistance to infection, and extends hospital stays.  Moreover, many medications need to be taken with food to assure their effectiveness.  Too many seniors skip meals in order to purchase medication, only to see the “Take with food” label on the prescription bottle.

FRAC believes that one of the key strategies to addressing senior hunger is to redress the failure of federal nutrition programs to provide adequate support.

  • Only an estimated 35 percent of eligible seniors participate in the Food Stamp Program. This compares to 85.8 percent of eligible children, and 67 percent of eligible people overall.
  • Other federal nutrition programs like the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Meals on Wheels and congregate eating are discretionary programs, and their funding generally has not increased to keep up with the need. By contrast, most of the federal nutrition programs for children (e.g., school lunch and breakfast, summer food) are entitlements and have grown markedly.

FRAC has developed this section of our website to discuss the particular challenges of and solutions to senior hunger.