1 in 7 seniors in US face hunger threat

U. ILLINOIS (US) — A new study of hunger trends over a 10-year period found that 8.3 million seniors (about 14 percent) in the United States face the threat of hunger.

From 2001 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger increased by 78 percent, according to the study. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger increased by 34 percent.

“In 2005, we reported that one in nine seniors faced the threat of hunger,” says Craig Gundersen, associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois, who led the data analysis on the study.

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“So, unlike the population as a whole, food insecurity among those 60 and older actually increased between 2009 and 2010.”

The fact that seniors in the United States are going without enough food due to economic constraints is a serious problem that will have greater implications for senior health, Gundersen says.

“Compounding the problem is that food insecurity is also associated with a host of poor health outcomes for seniors such as reduced nutrient intakes and limitations in activities of daily living,” Gundersen adds. “Consequently, this recent increase in senior hunger will likely lead to additional nutritional and health challenges for our nation.”

The increases in senior hunger were most pronounced among the near poor, whites, widows, non-metro residents, the retired, women, and among households with no grandchildren present.

“What may be surprising is that out of those seniors who face the threat of hunger, the majority have incomes above the poverty line and are white,” Gundersen says.

Other key findings in the study are that those living in states in the South and Southwest, those who are racial or ethnic minorities, those with lower incomes, and those who are younger, ages 60 to 69, are most likely to be threatened by hunger.

This study is the first in a series of annual reports on the state of senior hunger in the United States. The report was based on data collected from the Current Population Survey, which includes 18 questions in the Core Food Security Module, the module used by the USDA to establish the official food insecurity rates of households in the United States.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky contributed to the study, which was prepared for the Meals on Wheels Research Foundation, Inc., and published this month.

More news from University of Illinois: http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/