Nearly one in every six seniors in America faces the threat of hunger and not being properly nourished. This applies to those who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from and those who don’t have access to the healthiest possible food options. The issue is severe enough that the AARP reports that seniors face a healthcare bill of more than $130 billion every year due to medical issues stemming from senior hunger.
Senior hunger is an expansive issue that requires an understanding of exactly what constitutes a senior being “hungry,” the issues that stem from senior hunger, and how seniors who are hungry can be helped.
Seniors Being Hungry is a Nationwide Epidemic
To understand the concept of seniors being hungry, you must understand what it means to be “food insecure.” When you are food insecure, it means that there is “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” as defined by a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Essentially, it means that you aren’t receiving and/or don’t have access to the necessary foods and nutrients to help sustain your life.
The concept of being “hungry” is a state-of-mind, meaning that there is a physical aspect to the lack of food. Attending to an area where people are hungry and basically starving is a much more immediate and severe problem to solve. Being food insecure, on the other hand, helps include people who may have enough food and don’t technically live consistently in hunger, but the food they are eating—usually in large amounts—isn’t up to nutritional and dietary standards.
In 2006, the USDA broke down food insecurity into two categories to help determine how food insecure someone is:
Low Food Security
While there may not be an overall reduction in how much food someone is intaking, there may be a lower quality and variety of your diet. For instance, there may be reduced amounts of fresh vegetables and meats, but that may be replaced with fast food. In this category, people don’t miss many meals, but the type of meals that are being eaten diminish in quality.
Very Low Food Security
When you have very low food security, your health and ability to correct it with healthy food is in a dire situation. To be assigned this categorization, the USDA says there must be “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake,” meaning you’re often missing meals and not eating enough to survive.