Serving the Hungry - Fall 2014 Newsletter

Seniors who helped build our nation are now hungry, lacking nutritional meals...

Growth in Senior Hunger and the Risks

ChartRecent research by Feeding America and the National Foundation to end Senior Hunger has revealed some eye-opening results. The study indicates that every day over 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 from now until the year 2030. As the American population ages, more seniors will be faced with the challenge of food insecurity. The study also noted that today 1 in 12 seniors (or 8% of the senior population) has limited or uncertain access to enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, between the years 2001 and 2011 the number of food-insecure seniors more than doubled to 4.8 million. Right now in Indiana alone, 13% of our seniors live below the supplemental poverty level.

Many Americans spend their working years in low-wage jobs, living from paycheck to paycheck, saving little if any money for retirement. That’s because low-wage jobs offer little in the way of pensions or 401(K) plans, so after a lifetime of hard work, social security checks are often their only source of income. Many seniors attempt to live—in what should be their golden years—on social security checks of $700 a month or less. In this tough economic climate, with skyrocketing costs for everyday essentials, seniors are forced to make difficult choices between paying for healthcare or prescriptions and buying groceries.

Not only is this trend alarming, it is also dangerous. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the health complications from food insecurity. These at-risk elders consume fewer calories and as a result lower quantities of all 10 key nutrients than their food-secure peers consume. Iron and protein are crucial to keeping seniors healthy. Food-insecure seniors experience intake levels of these important nutrients that are 14 percent and 12 percent less than their food-secure counterparts. The intake difference of Vitamin C is a whopping 25%.

There are also the added risks of acute health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma that can come from not having enough nutritious food to eat. In fact, nine diseases have been found to have direct correlation to food insecurity. Seniors who experience inconsistent access to food are 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack, 52 percent more likely to develop asthma, and 40 percent more likely to suffer congestive heart failure. Furthermore, these same seniors are 22 percent more likely to be limited in independent daily living activities such as cooking, dressing and bathing and 60 percent more likely to battle depression.

Simply stated, we live in the most prosperous and affluent country in the world and we must take action to help our seniors and that’s where Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank comes into the picture.

Programs That Can Help Seniors

Partnering food banks, such as the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank, help seniors stretch their limited incomes. Among food pantry clients 65 and older, more than half reported visiting a pantry on a monthly basis, the highest of any age group. In addition to food banks, many cities also offer delivery programs to assist those who are confined to their homes. Last year alone Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank provided over 2.5 million meals, but we are still nearly 5 million short of meeting the entire need of people who are hungry.

Also, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable food packages to 588,000 low-income people each month. The senior food package provides food high in the nutrients often lacking from elderly diets. It is the only USDA nutritional aid program specifically targeted toward lowincome seniors. In fact, the program has eligibility requirements both for income level and age. Elders with an income level 130 percent of the poverty line (approximately $15,000 annually) are qualified to participate. Yet, CSFP funding is subject to the annual federal appropriations process, so limited funding also limits the number of participants who can be served. In addition, CSFP operates in only 39 states, which means that not all who are eligible will be able to receive assistance.

As you can see, there are still problems and gaps in reaching more needy seniors with help. Added to the other problems is the fact that not all seniors are aware of or enroll in federally funded programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Unfortunately, many more low-income seniors are eligible but not enrolled, with only 39 percent of eligible seniors actually participating in SNAP. One suggested way to increase those numbers is to provide education and application assistance. However, we need community volunteers to help with the teaching and applications in the fight against senior hunger.

Ways for You to Get Involved

There are several important steps you can take to become more actively engaged in the fight to end senior hunger.

  1. Become on advocate. Contact your Congressional Representative and ask them to lend their support for the CSFP program with the Appropriations Committee. Request that they support not only the $209 million in funding to maintain the current caseload, but also approve an increase of $5 million to expand the CSFP program to the six states waiting to implement it.
  2. Volunteer. Giving your time to stock shelves, carry bags, or deliver groceries to elders are ways you can actively help end senior hunger. You can also assist eligible seniors by teaching them about federal programs for which they are eligible and by helping them complete and file the necessary forms for SNAP and CSFP participation.
  3. Give financial resources. Your gifts to organizations like Catholic Charities help us reach more seniors as well as children and their families who simply don’t have enough nutritional food.

As America ages, the problem of senior hunger will continue to compound. That’s why it’s important now to take steps to address it. As individuals and communities, we can all find ways to get involved by volunteering, educating, and advocating for those who are unable to do so themselves. Research clearly shows that nearly half of the US population will experience at least one year of poverty between the ages of 60 and 90. We might someday find ourselves in need of help and dependent on the generosity of others. Now is the time to pay it forward!

If you would like more information on how you can get involved helping in the fight against hunger, please contact us at the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank!

Poverty and Income Among Seniors

Many older adults are affected by economic instability and poverty. Providing these low-income seniors with nutrition assistance helps them stretch their food budget and eases the burden of having to choose between buying food or other necessities, such as medicine, utilities, and rent.

  • In 2012, 9.1% of the elderly (3.9 million adults aged 65 and older) lived below the poverty line.
  • Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, medical out-of-pocket expenses significantly increase the poverty rate among seniors from 9.1% to 14.8%.
  • When examining economic instability over a lifetime, nearly half of older adults in the U.S. will encounter at least one year of poverty or near poverty between the ages of 60 and 90.
  • The recent recession had a negative impact on the income of older Americans. For older workers who lost their jobs during the recession and were later reemployed, an estimated 70% sustained earnings losses.
  • The unemployment rate for older workers rose dramatically during the recession. Unemployment is particularly challenging for older workers because they tend to be out of work longer than younger populations and have less time to recoup lost income and rebuild their retirement savings.

A True Story

Jane and her husband recently needed to receive emergency food assistance from a local food pantry.

"My husband and I are both disabled. After working since we were teenagers, now that we are in our late 50’s we never thought we would be in this situation at this time in our lives. And while we receive Social Security Disability, we don’t qualify for food stamps…Your program is filling a great need for us."

We are happy that Jane found a local food pantry which could provide both food to help them stay healthy and volunteers who treated them with respect and kindness.

Need Help Finding Food?

If you need help finding food or know someone who does, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479). The Hunger Hotline is available Monday – Friday from 9am – 6pm. All calls are free and confidential. Help someone you know receive the nutrition they need to remain healthy and productive.

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