Alex Ashbrook, director of Special Projects and Initiatives at the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), recently presented at the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America Conference in Chicago.

Tell us about your trip!

The Aging in America conference draws 3,000+ professionals each year — caregivers, advocates, and others who work with, and on behalf of, older adults. I presented alongside experts from AARP Foundation and IMPAQ International about the importance of addressing food insecurity among seniors.

What do you hope advocates took away from your presentation?

With greater attention being paid to the social determinants of health, it is crucial that professionals have the tools to treat them. Food security (or lack thereof) is a social determinant of health that can negatively impact an older adult’s quality of life and well-being.

The panelists discussed the health consequences of food insecurity, and provided attendees with resources to identify food insecurity among older adults and address its harmful impacts, such as IMPAQ and AARP Foundation’s toolkit, Implementing Food Security Screening and Referral for Older Patients in Primary Care.

Nationally, 15.8 million households are food insecure, including 2.9 million households with at least one adult aged 65 or older. Older adults living in food-insecure households do not have access to nutritious foods on a regular basis and are at higher risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes.* Food-insecure seniors are more likely to have to choose between paying for food or medicine, postpone medical care, and forgo food needed for special medical-based diets.

Having reliable access to enough food — health-sustaining food — is important for everyone, but it is particularly important as people age and become more vulnerable to illness, or when their life circumstances — such as limited mobility or the lack of resources — make maintaining a healthy diet more difficult.

What is FRAC doing to address senior hunger?

This summer, FRAC and AARP Foundation will release an online course, “Treating Food Insecurity Among Older Adults.” The Continuing Medical Education-approved course will provide health care providers with information on how to screen patients 50 and older for food insecurity and provide appropriate interventions. It is intended for a range of health care providers working with older adults, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered dietitians and nutritionists, social workers, community health workers, and health administrators.

After completing the course, health care providers should be able to:

  • define food insecurity;
  • identify risk factors for food insecurity among older adults;
  • identify the range of potential negative health outcomes that food-insecure older adults may face;
  • use the Hunger Vital Sign™ screening tool; and
  • connect patients to food resources, such as the federal nutrition programs.

Stay tuned for more information about the course on FRAC’s website.

FRAC also mobilizes advocates outside of the health care community. Nonprofits can protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs so that Americans of all ages can access the nutrition they need.

Learn more about senior hunger in FRAC’s Combating Food Insecurity: Tools for Helping Older Adults Access SNAP.

FRAC On the Move is a series in which we follow our policy and program experts as they connect with advocates across the country to explore strategies and develop solutions to end hunger. Follow #FRACOnTheMove on Twitter for our latest whereabouts.

*Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C. A., & Singh, A. (2016). Household food security in the United States in 2015. Economic Research Report, 215. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.