THERE ARE ELDERLY PEOPLE, ON SOCIAL SECURITY, WHO ARE HUNGRY RIGHT HERE IN OUR STATE, YET THEY CANNOT QUALIFY FOR SNAP (FOOD STAMPS) OR GET TO A FOOD PANTRY TO GET FOOD.
- 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
- Nearly one in three meal programs targets children, while only one in more than ten meal programs target seniors.
- 79% of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food.
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
I did not realize that:
- There is no minimum Social Security benefit,
- 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.
I am stunned that:
- 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.
- In Oklahoma City alone, 1/3 of Seniors are hungry on a daily basis. I have no doubt that it is higher in small towns where they don’t drive or are using a walker and have no one to bring them anything.
BECAUSE FEWER PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE FOR SENIORS
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.
- 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.)
LETS PUT OURSELVES IN THEIR SHOES
Imagine for a moment that your total Social Security benefit for the month was $1000*. How much of that $1,000 Social Security would you have left after first paying your rent, and then moving on to utilities, prescriptions, medical co-pays and uncovered services, and then basics such as toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) How much did you have left to buy food for the month? (Not many of us would be willing to do this for a month,as an experiment, yet working with Seniors I see this every day.)
WHAT MANY SENIORS DO NOT REALIZE
AS I SEE IT
- 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.
We need to educate the elderly and their caregivers on how and where they can get help, and if they cannot get there, we need to get it to them.
An example of what is needed: someone to deliver food right to to the Senior low income apartments and Senior Centers in RURAL areas, such as Cushing. (Cushing, though closer to Tulsa is served by the Regional Food bank, not the Eastern Oklahoma Food Bank http://okfoodbank.org/what-we-do/senior-servings and Cushing seems to fall through the cracks.) Here is what the Regional Food Bank, that Cushing falls under, shows: http://www.aarp.org/giving-back/info-07-2012/aarp-works-with-food-banks-ok1907.html
(*Although the average Social Security check is a bit higher Many are less. Remember: there is no minimum Social Security benefit.)
19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 24:19 (NIV)