5 Million American Seniors Struggle with Hunger
Many Forced to Choose Between Paying for Prescriptions and Having Enough to Eat
Photo by Chef Joey
Congressman Jim McGovern, a senior House Democrat and leading voice in the fight against hunger, spoke on the House Floor today to recognize Older Americans Month and to help raise awareness about senior hunger and the ways we can better address it.
Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech, as prepared for delivery:
“As we celebrate the contributions of our seniors during Older Americans Month this month, I rise to draw attention to an issue that often goes overlooked in our communities – the terrible problem of hunger among aging adults.
“Food insecurity among seniors has doubled since 2001 and is expected to increase significantly as the Baby Boomer generation ages.
“Today, food insecurity impacts five million seniors across the country, forcing them to make impossible decisions between food, medical care, home heating, and other necessities.
“We know that hunger is a health issue, and that is especially true among seniors over the age of 60.
Photo by Chef Joey
“Research from Feeding America suggests that compared to their food secure neighbors, seniors suffering from hunger are 60 percent more likely to experience depression, 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack, 52 percent more likely to develop asthma, and 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure.
“Baby Boomers spend twice as much on health care as young adults do, and ensuring seniors have access to nutritious food will help to improve the health of our seniors and ultimately reduce medical costs.
“We also know that seniors have unique nutritional needs, and I’m pleased to see scientists collaborating to create nutritional guidance for seniors.
“Researchers at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, with support from the AARP Foundation, recently unveiled an updated MyPlate for Older Adults graphic to help seniors visualize what foods cover the nutritional needs that make up a healthy plate for adults their age. The new icon also encourages them to follow healthy eating patterns.
“I was pleased to join scientists from Tufts, as well as representatives of AARP, last week at a briefing on Capitol Hill to unveil the new MyPlate icon and educate Congressional staff on the importance of senior nutrition.
“But if we want to ensure seniors have access to nutritious foods, we must also ensure they have the ability to afford fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options.
“One critical step we can take toward the goal of ending senior hunger is closing what’s referred to as the ‘senior SNAP gap.’
“While millions of our parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends are facing hunger, only a fraction of low-income seniors eligible for food assistance through SNAP are accessing the benefits, presumably because of the stigma associated with assistance or because seniors are unaware they qualify for benefits.
“Many seniors also suffer from limited mobility, or may have issues completing benefit applications which can be complex and time consuming.
“In fact, seniors are more likely than any other age group to be eligible for SNAP but not enrolled to receive benefits.
“That’s why I’m pleased to see so many advocacy organizations using Older Americans Month to call attention to the issue of senior hunger.
“Through their #SolveSeniorHunger campaign, Feeding America and other anti-hunger and aging organizations across the country are reaching out to seniors and their loved ones to raise awareness and ensure that those seniors who are eligible to receive SNAP benefits are connected to the appropriate resources.
“We should all do our part to help solve senior hunger by talking to our family members and friends about senior hunger and partnering with leaders in our communities working to improve access to nutritious food for senior populations.
“During my years in Congress, I have had the opportunity to visit food banks and other organizations in my district working to end hunger among seniors.
“Last year, I had the privilege of spending a day with a Meals on Wheels program based in Northampton, Massachusetts – part of my Congressional district. I helped to prepare and deliver meals, and had the opportunity to speak with the seniors who are served through this incredible program.
“Members of Congress have an important role in ensuring that our nation’s seniors don’t go hungry, and I encourage all of my colleagues to spend time with similar programs in their districts.
“Congress must adequately fund programs like Meals on Wheels that provide nutritious food to seniors, and reject harmful cuts to SNAP that will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable among us – children, seniors and the disabled.
“Working together, we have the power to end hunger now, especially among our senior population.”