Terry White is an Account Executive at GA Foods. Formerly he has served as Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Executive Director for the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, and Chief for the Division of Home & Community Based Services, Ohio Department of Aging. GA Foods is privileged to have a team member with extensive knowledge in services for seniors.
The number of adults reaching retirement age is expected to increase significantly over the next generation. In fact, the number of older adults could reach 80 million by 2040.
While none of this is inherently problematic, seniors have special nutritional needs that, if not met, could result in significant health challenges. On top of that, millions of seniors around the country are food insecure. In other words, they don't have reliable access to an adequate amount of food to meet their daily nutritional requirements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2014 a total of three million households with seniors (age 65 and older), and over one million seniors living alone, were food insecure.
Aside from nutritional deficiencies tied into food insecurity, seniors who are food insecure have much higher rates of depression, heart attack and asthma. The really concerning thing about all this is that the number of food insecure seniors is anticipated to rise sharply as the entire baby boom generation nears retirement age over the coming decade.
How Did We Get Here?
A large share of seniors are struggling with poverty - the most recent Census data indicates the number of seniors battling poverty is approximately 10 percent, or 4.6 million seniors nationwide.
Those below the poverty line in general are at a much higher risk of being food insecure, but when you add on top of that age-related health problems and functional impairments, you really start to appreciate why food insecurity among seniors is such an issue.
Food insecurity can be a problem for seniors even if they have the money to purchase food, as they might be lacking other resources and thereby remain food insecure. For instance, seniors who are food insecure might not have reliable transportation or a driver's license to make it to the grocery store on a week-to-week basis.
Senior Food Assistance Programs
There's a lot of research out there showing a strong connection between seniors, food insecurity and a lack of nutrients vital to good health (e.g., quality proteins, Vitamin B12 and magnesium). As you can see, there's an increasing need for food assistance programs to address this multifaceted problem. Here are some available options:Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
Food insecure seniors can boost their overall health and get more access to essential vitamins and minerals through the senior farmers' market nutrition program. This program gives grants to seniors so that they can get fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers' markets, roadside stands and community agriculture programs.Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
The commodity supplemental food program is a great option to take for seniors aged 60 and older who are food insecure. This program is specifically tailored to provide low-income, food-insecure seniors more nutritious USDA foods. There's a huge selection of fruit, vegetable and dairy options available to seniors through this program.Administration for Community Living
The Adminstration for Community Living provides congregate meals as well as home-delivered meals and other nutritional services for seniors facing food insecurity. This is essential because food-insecure seniors were more than twice as likely to report average or poor health compared to other seniors. Food assistance programs aim to close that gap. To find a nutrition program near you, go to eldercare.gov.
Health and Psychological Benefits of Home-Delivered Meals
Research out of Brown University also shows that home-delivered meals can offer psychology benefits to seniors receiving them. This means that home-delivered meals are providing quality nutrition to seniors while easing the loneliness that many face.
The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) reports that 92% of home delivered meal recipients say meals allowed them to remain in their homes. Allowing seniors to age in place is cost-effective and improves the well-being of seniors. Home-delivered meals are increasing access to quality nutrition for low-income seniors and helping to put a stop to senior food insecurity.
If you'd like to read more about seniors and hunger, read this article.
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