Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Kaiser Health News addressed the topic of hunger amongst elders in Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging.
This is incredibly sobering
[M]illions of seniors across the country quietly go hungry as the safety net designed to catch them frays. Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were “food insecure” in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That’s 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays.
While the plight of hungry children elicits support and can be tackled in schools, the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation’s pride. The problem is most acute in parts of the South and Southwest. Louisiana has the highest rate among states, with 12% of seniors facing food insecurity. Memphis fares worst among major metropolitan areas, with 17% of seniors like [one mentioned in the article] unsure of their next meal.
You're thinking to yourself, surely there are options. What about those federally funded meals programs? Something else? Uh....not likely.
[G]overnment relief falls short. One of the main federal programs helping seniors is starved for money. The Older Americans Act — passed more than half a century ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms — was amended in 1972 to provide for home-delivered and group meals, along with other services, for anyone 60 and older. But its funding has lagged far behind senior population growth, as well as economic inflation.
The biggest chunk of the act’s budget, nutrition services, dropped by 8% over the past 18 years when adjusted for inflation, an AARP report found in February. Home-delivered and group meals have decreased by nearly 21 million since 2005. Only a fraction of those facing food insecurity get any meal services under the act; a U.S. Government Accountability Office report examining 2013 data found 83% got none.
Oh and by the way-the act expires at the end of this month-it's now up to COngress to reauthorize and determine its budget. Food stamps may be an option, but "only 45% of eligible adults 60 and older have signed up for ... SNAP, the food stamp program for America’s poorest. Those who don’t are typically either unaware they could qualify, believe their benefits would be tiny or can no longer get to a grocery store to use them."
Government programs have long wait lists but there are those who get help, "2.4 million people a year benefit from the Older Americans Act’s group or home-delivered meals, allowing them to stay independent and healthy." Poor diet, hunger, and starvation have significant consequences, in some instances resulting in major health issues or even death.
Where you one of those kids growing up whose parent said something along the lines of "eat your vegetables (or clean your plate), there are children starving in (insert country)? Nowadays it may be "eat your vegetables, grandma is starving...."
Keep an eye on Congress' actions on reauthorization-it's important!