The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) ranks Louisiana as the 2nd worst state for seniors at risk of hunger with 24% of seniors facing the difficulty of obtaining a nutritious diet. This is nearly one-in-four with more than 800,000 Louisianans aged 60 years or older according to census estimates.
Hunger and food insecurity among seniors has far ranging impacts from quality of life to healthcare costs. A report from Feeding America and NFESH details the adverse health impacts on seniors facing hunger including:
Food insecure seniors eat less calories and receive lower quantities of 10 essential nutrients important to their health
Food insecure seniors are 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure, 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack, and twice as likely to develop asthma
Food insecure seniors are 60% more likely to experience depression.
There are several programs to help seniors meet their meal needs; unfortunately, these programs are often underfunded leaving many seniors to seek additional assistance. In Louisiana Meals on Wheels, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (Food for Seniors in Louisiana), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are federally funded programs but only reach a limited number of seniors. In addition to these programs, seniors often turn to food banks for assistance. Each food bank in Louisiana has a special senior feeding program in addition to food pantries and other food bank partner agencies where seniors seek assistance.
Food insecure seniors have a variety of special considerations including nutrient requirements, ability to prepare meals, and accessibility to food stores and require a variety of avenues for food assistance. Oftentimes, because of low benefit amounts seniors must rely on multiple sources of assistance to make ends meet. For example, someone receiving social security may qualify for SNAP benefits, but at the minimum monthly amount of $16 each month. Benefit amounts this low do not stretch far and seniors turn to their local food pantries for assistance.
Louisiana’s seniors deserve more than worrying whether to pay for food or medicine. While food banks and other programs work together to fill the hunger gap, additional work needs to be done to ensure all seniors in Louisiana have access to the food they need.