The Vermont Foodbank announced Thursday, Aug. 17, the release of The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2015, a study of food insecurity among seniors in the U.S. produced by Feeding America. Food insecurity refers to the lack of access to enough nutritious food. The findings are further evidence that the benefits of the improved economy are not being enjoyed by all.
The report shows that nationally, 8.1 percent of seniors age 60 or older (5.4 million) were food-insecure in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.
Nationally, the 8.1 percent of seniors who are food-insecure does represent a slight decrease over the prior year, and the first decline since 2009. Despite relative improvement, the rate and number of seniors affected remains well above pre-recession levels. In 2007, when the recession was just beginning, 6.3 percent of seniors (3.2 million) were food-insecure – 2.2 million fewer than the most recently reported total of food-insecure seniors.
In Vermont, 7.5 percent of seniors were food-insecure in 2015.
The Vermont Foodbank is one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network. The Vermont Foodbank serves 153,000 Vermonters facing hunger annually. This figure includes 26,000 seniors. Working with a network of 225 food shelves, meals sites, and senior centers throughout the state, as well providing food directly to Vermonters at schools, hospitals, and housing units, the Vermont Foodbank distributed 12 million pounds of food in 2016.
In addition to supplying the state’s food shelves and meals sites with high quality, nutritious food, the Vermont Foodbank distributes monthly commodity boxes to more than 2,000 seniors throughout Vermont. They also partner with Support and Services at Home to provide healthy food to senior housing facilities throughout the state.
Seniors who are racial or ethnic minorities, low-income, and younger vs. older (age 60-69 vs. age 80-plus) were most likely to be affected by some level of food insecurity. Seniors who reported a disability were disproportionately affected, with 25 percent reporting food insecurity and an additional 13 percent reporting marginal food security.
Senior food insecurity rates vary by state, ranging from 2.9 percent in North Dakota to 15.6 percent in Louisiana. Vermont, with 7.5 percent of its seniors food-insecure, is in the middle of that range.
Food insecurity adversely affects health, and the implications can be particularly problematic for seniors. Compared to food-secure seniors, food-insecure seniors consume fewer calories and lower quantities of key nutrients and are more likely to experience negative health conditions, including depression, asthma, and chest pain.
The study is the source for national- and state-level information about food insecurity among seniors age 60 and older, as well as data about related health implications.
“With 7.5 percent of older Vermonters struggling with food insecurity, it is critical that we come together to take action,” said Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles. “We must work together to create a world where our older neighbors and family members have access to the nutritious food they need to live long, healthy, happy lives. We call upon individuals, businesses and the government to join us as we work toward our mission to ensure that no one in Vermont goes hungry.”
“The number of seniors facing hunger in this country remains unacceptably high. After lifetimes of hard work many of America’s seniors are put in the terrible position of having to choose between groceries and medical care,” said Feeding America CEO Diana Aviv. “These are parents, grandparents and cherished friends and we must ensure they have the nutritious food they need. Feeding America is working to prevent their hunger every day.”