Who is Hungry
The poor and needy from our community fall into three basic categories. The situationally poor are people who are experiencing hunger on a temporary basis. Perhaps a layoff, divorce or illness has forced a person to ask for food assistance at a local food pantry. The second group is the working poor. In today’s economy it takes two full time workers earning minimum wage to support a family of four above the poverty level. The final category is the chronically poor. These are people who slip into and out of poverty on a regular basis. In 2007, the poverty level for a family of four is $20,650.
Today two parents making minimum wage in Iowa and in Illinois will struggle to provide healthy food for their families and still make ends meet and still. A majority of the young families and adults seeking food assistance are working but their paychecks simply don’t stretch far enough. A medical crisis can easily wipe out the cash reserves of hard working families.
As a nation, we have a special responsibility to vulnerable populations such as the elderly. Older Americans have built the economy and national infrastructure from which we now benefit. The people that built this country should not suffer hunger in a land of plenty, which they helped to create. Food insecurity among this vulnerable population is especially troublesome because they have unique nutritional needs and may require special diets for medical conditions. In February 2006, America's Second Harvest released its fourth and most comprehensive study of hunger in the U.S.: Hunger in America 2006 [i] .
The following are some key findings from the study regarding the elderly in our country:
- Nearly 3 million elderly persons are served by the Feeding America network each year. 21.5 percent of client households have at least one member who is age 65 or over, and 52 percent of these households are food insecure - an estimated 1.2 million households.
- 6% of all households with elderly are food-insecure.
- Among client households with seniors, 27.4 percent are served by emergency feeding programs in center cities, 25 percent in suburban areas, and 18.1 percent in rural areas.
- 28.7 percent of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 31 percent had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities.
- 9.4 percent of the elderly live below the poverty line - 3.4 million older Americans
- Elderly households are much less likely to receive food stamps than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same
- Seniors require greater consideration towards their health and medical needs that can become compromised when there is not enough food to eat. A study which examined the health and nutritional status of seniors found that food insecure seniors had significantly lower intakes of vital nutrients in their diets when compared to their food secure counterparts. In addition, food insecure seniors were 2.33 times more likely to report fair/poor health status and had higher nutritional risk
- For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger is more difficult than for the general population. For example, a study that focused on the experience of food insecurity among the elderly population found that food insecure seniors sometimes had enough money to purchase food but did not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems
In 2005, 35.1 million people in the United States, including 12.4 million children, were classified as food insecure. (1)25 million Americans receive food from an emergency food program each year, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.
- One in five children in our nation (approximately 15 million) live at or below the poverty line (U.S. Census Bureau).
- Nearly two-thirds of poor young children live in working families (The National Center for Children in Poverty).
- Recent research indicates that even mild under-nutrition during critical periods of growth may affect brain development and reduce physical growth (Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy).
- Requests for emergency food assistance have risen by 18 percent in American cities, with more than half of the requests coming from families with children (U.S. Conference of Mayors).