Seniors No Longer Protected From Food Hardship
It hasn’t hit the headlines yet, but news from the latest Communities Count data update is sobering: In just 3 years, King County seniors lost their “protective” status and are now as likely as younger King County residents to run out of food without having money to buy more. In 2010, the rate of food hardship among seniors (4%) was lower than the King County average (8%). By 2013, this relative advantage had disappeared: 1 in 10 seniors reported running out of food, a rate that did not differ from the King County average (13%) or from other age groups.
This finding (from a telephone survey fielded by Washington’s Department of Health) receives support from anecdotal reports of increasing numbers of seniors seeking food assistance from local food banks. And things aren’t likely to improve in the foreseeable future. In their Senior Hunger Fact Sheet, Feeding America projects that by 2025 the number of seniors experiencing food insecurity will increase by 50%, and notes that “seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population.” The fact sheet also stresses the health risks faced by food-insecure seniors, and reports that “elderly households are much less likely to receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same.”