Feeding America study finds that 5.5 million seniors faced hunger in 2021

Food insecurity disparities by race/ethnicity greater in seniors
calendar icon 30 April 2023
clock icon 4 minute read

Earlier this week, Feeding America released The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2021, a study about seniors facing hunger in the United States. The report sheds light on the extent to which food insecurity – or having limited access to enough food to live a healthy lifestyle – affects individuals aged 60 and older. The report shows that out of 78 million seniors aged 60 or older in the United States, 5.5 million were food insecure in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available.

Food insecurity among seniors did not change significantly between 2020 and 2021, going from 6.8% to 7.1%. However, consistent with the overall population, seniors of colour experience food insecurity at disproportionately higher rates compared to their white counterparts as well as the overall food insecure population. 

While the study does not include separate food insecurity estimates for other racial and ethnic groups, it has been shown through other analyses that individuals who identify as Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian subgroups also have disproportionately high rates of food insecurity.

"If we as a country decide once and for all to end food insecurity in this country, think of what that would mean for our senior neighbours facing hunger," said Tom Summerfelt, chief research officer at Feeding America. "Food insecurity is so closely tied to health, which becomes especially critical as we age. Also, medical expenses are a key driver of food insecurity, particularly in our elders. Food can work as medicine. Addressing food insecurity among seniors would help reduce chronic health conditions and could result in healthier communities overall."

The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2021 also found that seniors in multigenerational households experience food insecurity at higher rates. While there are many positive benefits to this type of household structure, in 2021, food insecurity was 2.2 times as high for seniors residing with a grandchild (15.0% vs. 6.8%) and 1.7 times as high for older adults residing with a grandchild (15.4% vs. 9.1%). From a previous Feeding America report last year, a family with lived experience shared, "I am a senior citizen raising two toddlers and do not qualify for any help; my situation falls through the cracks of what society lists as qualified recipients."

"As Congress deliberates on the 2023 Farm Bill, I urge them to think about our parents and grandparents who might not have the resources to put enough food on the table," Summerfelt said. "We urge members of Congress to help ensure people, including our seniors, have access to the nutritious food they need by strengthening federal nutrition programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and SNAP, in the 2023 Farm Bill."

The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2021 estimates food insecurity among seniors in 2021 at the national level and provides rates of senior hunger in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and for 51 large metropolitan areas.

Key findings include:

  • Seniors experiencing food insecurity live in communities across the country, including all 50 states and Washington, DC In 2021, senior food insecurity rates at the state level ranged from 2.8% in North Dakota to 13.4% in Louisiana.
  • Nine of the ten states with the highest rates of senior food insecurity were located in the South.
  • Senior food insecurity in metro areas varied from 2.0% in the Rochester, New York metro area to 13.8% in the New Orleans, Louisiana metro area.

Food insecurity has negative effects for individuals across their lifespan. For seniors, these effects can be particularly problematic given the unique health, economic, and nutritional challenges that can come with aging. The State of Senior Hunger in 2021 also finds that food insecurity disproportionately affects seniors in certain socioeconomic groups. 

Specifically, in 2021, researchers found:

  • Seniors with disabilities (13.4%) had food insecurity rates over twice as high as seniors without disabilities (5.0%).
  • An estimated six in ten (57.4%) seniors experiencing food insecurity were female.
  • Seniors who live with grandchildren were more likely to be food insecure than seniors who do not (15.0% compared to 6.8%).
  • Seniors with relatively higher incomes still struggle to get enough nutritious food. More than half (59.1%) of seniors experiencing food insecurity who reported income had income above the federal poverty line, and a majority were either retired (50.6%) or disabled (28.5%), while only 2.8% were unemployed.
  • Seniors who are renters (17.1%) were more than three times more likely to be food insecure than seniors who are homeowners (5.0%).
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.