Did you know that May is Older Americans Month (OAM)? The appreciation month for seniors dates back to 1963, when President Kennedy designated May Senior Citizens Month (later renamed Older Americans Month), and every president since has issued a formal proclamation that the entire nation pay tribute to older persons and their contributions to our communities. While the month is dedicated to honoring our nation’s seniors, it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about important issues facing older adults.
One of the most detrimental issues that millions of older adults across the country face is food insecurity. Sadly, this population has experienced heightened rates of food insecurity in recent years. As Americans age, they begin to face many challenges, including limited access to healthy and nutritious food, higher medical costs, decreased earnings and reliance on a fixed income. In fact, a limited income can prevent some older adults from being able to afford or access the foods their bodies require for healthy aging. Many seniors are forced to make a tradeoff between paying for food and paying for other necessities like medication.
Food Lifeline and our partner food banks and meal programs work hard to combat senior hunger. Last year, together we served 120,526 seniors. Additionally, Food Lifeline has partnered with the Renton Housing Authority and once a month our Mobile Food Pantry visits a senior housing complex to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables, items not readily available or affordable for low-income seniors.
While these programs and food banks help to feed hungry seniors, it is simply not enough. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded program that helps to ensure low-income individuals and families have access to groceries. However, SNAP is underutilized by low-income older adults. In fact, in the state of Washington, only 55% of eligible seniors are enrolled in SNAP. When a low or fixed income senior receives SNAP benefits they are able to pay for other necessities like medication or utilities. Evidence proves that SNAP improves household food security and therefore the nutritional and health outcomes for seniors. With the senior population expected to nearly double by 2050, it is more critical than ever that we invest in our nation’s nutrition assistance programs to strengthen their safety net.
Together, we can give back to those who have given us so much of their time, hard work and wisdom. Join us in celebrating Older Americans Month and help us #SolveSeniorHunger by raising awareness for older Americans who struggle with hunger.