Although poverty among older adults isn’t frequently discussed, a significant portion of older adults struggles with food insecurity. Food insecurity can be a point of shame for older adults as it challenges their self-reliance. It can be frightening to ask for help, and many food-insecure people, including older adults, struggle to access potentially helpful resources.
In 2018, the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) reported that “poverty, food insecurity, and poor nutrition have harmful impacts on the health and well-being of older adults.” Like people of all ages, older adults are harmed by the toxic stress caused by food insecurity. For older adults, specifically, food insecurity can be particularly harmful as it causes higher rates of chronic illness. FRAC identified that “older adults with two to four chronic conditions and five or more chronic conditions are 2.12 and 3.64 times [more] likely to be food insecure.” Struggling with food insecurity often pushes people to eat less nutritious but more readily available food, resulting in high rates of diabetes, along with other chronic conditions, among food-insecure older adults.
In 2018, more than 2.9 million food-insecure households included an adult over 65. Feeding America’s 2019 The State of Senior Hunger report discovered that of 74 million residents over 60, 7.1 million experienced food insecurity. 2.6% had very low food security, and 7.1% reported being food insecure. Senior food insecurity rates are heightened for those who identify as Black, 15.2%, and those who identify as Hispanic, 13.5%.
Close to home, Virginia’s food insecurity rate for people over 60 is 8.9%. The Fairfax census reported that 6.3% (5,164) of the 81,972 people living in poverty in 2019 were over 65. Food for Others served 593 clients over 65 in our USDA program and Emergency Box program during FY 2021. Since June 30th, 2021, 142 clients over 65 have picked up food from our warehouse.
Despite the lack of conversation surrounding poverty and food insecurity among older adults, it’s an important topic as we honor the International Day of Older Persons. Food for Others strives to alleviate food insecurity among people of all ages, and we’re happy to help older adults towards greater food security.