Hunger Among Seniors a Growing Problem in the U.S.
Senior citizens dealing with hunger are also facing negative health and
Drive to End
Hunger Among Seniors
9 million Americans 50+ are at risk for hunger every day a
staggering 79 percent increase in just 10 years. Drive to End
Hunger is AARP Foundations multipronged approach on this
problem. The foundation is working to combat hunger among people
50 and older through raising awareness, building philanthropic
support and developing long-term, sustainable solutions.
Read at AARP
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April 28, 2014 - In a country as wealthy as the United States, it may
come as a surprise that one in 12 seniors do not have access to adequate
food due to lack of money or other financial resources. They are food
insecure, according to researchers at the University of Illinois and
University of Kentucky.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
the study revealed that the seniors who are dealing with hunger are also
facing negative health and nutrition consequences.
"In 2011, 8.35 percent of Americans over age 60 faced the threat of
hunger - that translates to 4.8 million people," said Craig Gundersen,
University of Illinois soybean industry endowed professor in
agricultural strategy in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer
Economics and executive director of the National Soybean Research
Laboratory who led the data analysis on the study.
Hand-in-hand with hunger goes a lower intake of calories, vitamins, and
other nutrients, which puts them at risk for a wide variety of ailments,
according to the report.
"Seniors who are food insecure reported higher incidence of diabetes,
high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, gum disease, and a
host of other health problems than adults their age who are food
secure," Gundersen said.
"In addition, food-insecure seniors have worse general health outcomes,
more daily activity limitations, and are more likely to suffer from
While there has been other research examining the health consequences of
food insecurity among seniors, they don't use nationally representative
data sets. This research provides the most complete portrait of health
and food insecurity among older Americans, the study authors say.
Because of the extensive data, the study was able to compare seniors
over the age of 60 to those ages 50 to 59. This afforded the researchers
a snapshot of what that slightly younger group had to look forward to as
they entered their "golden" years.
The younger age group already
mirrored similar statistics for nutrients in their diet and poor health.
"Food insecurity rates among seniors were almost three times as high if
grandchildren were present in the home, in comparison to homes without
grandchildren present," Gundersen said.
"And those seniors with grandchildren in the house had lower nutrient
intakes than those without grandchildren. We think this may be because
adults in households with grandchildren are foregoing healthy diets in
order to make sure their grandchildren have enough to eat."
Gundersen said that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP,
formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) has been demonstrated to
reduce food insecurity. He recommends that policymakers and program
administrators pursue efforts to increase participation in SNAP, with a
particular emphasis on older adults.
"Food Insecurity and Health among Senior Americans" was prepared for
Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger in 2014
by Gundersen and by James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky Center
for Poverty Research.
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