Currently nearly four million Seniors are malnourished in the United States.
Social Security and Medicare do not provide sufficient protection against the problem of hunger. There is no minimum Social Security benefit, yet for one in three Seniors in Oklahoma Social Security is their total income. At the death of a spouse, one Social Security benefit goes away.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 12% of those 65 and older are living at the poverty level. Among the most pronounced increases, for food insecurity, are the widowed. Out of those seniors who face the threat of hunger, the majority (63%) are white and actually have incomes above the poverty line. (2009). In Oklahoma City alone, 1/3 of Seniors are hungry on a daily basis.
FEWER PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SENIORS
While more than 50% of households receiving food through Feeding America* are also receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) a hungry Senior receiving the average Social Security benefit does not qualify for SNAP, even though their money may not stretch enough to purchase food.
Although 1 in 7 Americans participate in the SNAP program here is why many Seniors do not qualify for SNAP: The average monthly Social Security benefit (2015) received by widows and widowers, in OK, before Medicare insurance is withheld is $1274. The gross monthly income for a one person household must be less than 130% of poverty (currently $1265* per month), in order to receive SNAP benefits. (Thus, the average person on Social Security draws $9 a month too much to qualify for food stamps.)
Nearly one in three meal programs targets children, while only one in more than ten meal programs target seniors. While some programs may “target” Seniors, they aren’t all available to Seniors.
ON A VERY LIMITED INCOME A SENIOR STRUGGLING TO MAKE ENDS MEET MUST FIGURE OUT HOW HE/SHE IS GOING TO EAT WHEN THERE IS NO MONEY FOR FOOD AT THE END OF THE MONTH
79% of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food.
According to Feeding America’s recent study, Hunger in America 2014, more than half of all seniors report having to make tradeoffs, many times choosing between eating or paying for prescriptions, transportation to the doctor, rent or utilities (heat and water), etc. Many go hungry.
These tradeoffs mean that our older population is suffering as many Oklahoma seniors skip meals and don’t receive the proper nutrition critical to their health.
CONSEQUENCES OF FOOD INSECURITY
A recent study found that food insecure seniors had significantly lower intakes of vital nutrients in their diets. Inadequate nutrition can have long-term consequences, which include a high rate of heart attack, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and congestive heart failure. These health conditions can create additional financial strains. Many report having medical debt even with insurance, due to deductibles and uncovered services.
Reasons why only 17% of the clients served by Feeding America are age 60 and over include: inability to get to a food pantry due to poor health, limited mobility, lack of transportation, living in a “food desert” (too far from a food pantry) and even shame.
Many factors, not just poverty, contribute to hunger, such as dental problems, which make it extremely uncomfortable to eat. (Medicare, in Oklahoma, does NOT cover dental.)
Imagine for a moment that your total Social Security benefit for the month was $600. This is all you have to pay for everything you need: rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, medical co-pays and uncovered services, along with basics such as toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) Remember: there is no minimum Social Security benefit. (Not many of us would be willing to do this for a month, even if just to see if we could do it.)
THERE ARE ELDERLY PEOPLE, ON SOCIAL SECURITY, WHO ARE HUNGRY RIGHT HERE IN OUR STATE, YET THEY CANNOT QUALIFY FOR SNAP OR GET TO A FOOD PANTRY TO GET FOOD.
NO PERSON IN AMERICA SHOULD GO HUNGRY!
Enough healthy food for adequate nutrition is important, to reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases and the accompanying skyrocketing healthcare costs.
The health of low-income elderly persons, 60 years of age and older, can be improved by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods.
Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending Senior hunger. Each of us can all do something! Working together, we can solve hunger in Oklahoma.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. Matthew 25:35
*In Oklahoma, Feeding America food banks serve the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) and Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma (Tulsa, OK )
Senior/Elder Hunger ~ The Hidden Epidemic in America.