Food insecurity remains an issue for older adults, as many face increased living costs and household burdens.
According to the recent report from Feeding America, released this week using 2017 data, 5.5 million seniors, or 7.7 percent of the senior population in the country, were food insecure in 2017. The rate of food insecurity among seniors is lower in recent years but remains significantly higher than it was in 2007, the report said.
“People are trying to pay more bills with less funds because they are living on a fixed income that is not being adjusted necessarily to different bills that they have or to the price of things,” said Laura Toth, executive director for the Medina County Office for Older Adults. “If you even include groceries in that — but mainly prescriptions are definitely a lot higher and continuing to go up.
“People want to stay healthy so they want to get those bills paid and want to be able to get the prescriptions they need. Sometimes that’s at the cost of the food they have in their homes, not realizing… a key factor in keeping you healthy is to have good nutrition.”
According to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, 15 percent of seniors are struggling with food insecurity, which ranks Ohio ninth nationally when it comes to food insecurity among seniors.
A county-by-county breakdown was not available in the report.
The hunger advocacy group is seeking increased funding in the 2020-21 state biennial budget to support a comprehensive approach to hunger relief.
In Medina County, Feeding Medina County and the Office for Older Adults work closely with seniors to provide food services. Both organizations said they have seen an increase in older adults using their services over the past few years.
“In the month of April, we had 167 seniors in the county receive home-delivered meals and we delivered 3,350 meals,” Toth said. “Another 101 seniors in the county participated in what we call our congregate meal program. So either a voucher program in Wadsworth or they came into the center for a meal. We served 483 of those.”
This has been a pretty average number each month for in the past year or so, Toth said. However, she added that looking back at numbers from two years ago, the number of seniors receiving meals has increased.
Feeding Medina County offers some other food-related services for seniors in the county as well.
“We are the only agency in the county that does a program called Staples for Seniors,” said Sandy Hinckle, executive director.
“So, we service any senior who signs up and who lives in low-income housing in our county. We pack bags for them and provide them with meat, cheese, eggs, produce, fruit, pastries, breads, anything you can think of.
“We do that once a month and we feed 350 seniors every month.”
She said the organization also just started a Meals-on-Wheels program to help homebound seniors. May is the third month for this program.
The goal is to provide food that’s easy to prepare for homebound seniors.
So far, about 25 seniors a month take advantage of the program, receiving a delivery of 10 to 15 pounds of food once a month, Hinkle said.
Feeding Medina County also has a food distribution event at the Medina County Fairgrounds coordinated by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Last month, 20 seniors with children, probably those raising grandkids, attended the distribution, Hinkle said.
Another 73 seniors without children also attended.
Feeding America research found that seniors are more than twice as likely to be food insecure if they have grandchildren in the home.
“This research clearly demonstrates the interconnectedness of food security and poverty-related issues,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said in a statement.
“When individuals reach their near-retirement and retirement years and are trying to survive on limited, fixed incomes — often without assets like their own home or retirement savings — there’s nowhere else for them to turn.
“We can’t rewind the clock for them, but we absolutely should provide them the basic security of adequate, nutritious food, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will save taxpayers money in the long run in the way of reduced health care costs and nursing home stays.”