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Study: One in 11 Seniors at Risk for Hunger

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August 31, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Thousands of North Carolina seniors face food hardship, according to a new report.

One in 11 Americans age 50 and older are at risk for hunger, the AARP study says, up 79 percent in the last 10 years.

Programs are available to help seniors afford food, and AARP is sponsoring a "Drive to End Hunger" campaign to make more people aware of them, as well as raising money and prompting food drives in local communities.

Suzanne LaFollette-Black, associate director for community outreach at AARP North Carolina, explains how serious the problem is.

"People don't really realize how bad it really is. They don't want people to know that they need help. There's an independence factor there. They outlived the Depression; they outlived so many wars, and they say, 'I can get by.' "

The research is the first of its kind to examine hunger risk among even the youngest of the baby boomers, now in their 50s. They are particularly at risk, AARP says, because they don't qualify for Social Security or for programs aimed at families with children.

Additional assistance available to seniors with changes in federal and state programs. Lafollette-Black says the goal of the AARP campaign is to help seniors so they don't have to make tough choices about which of their needs to meet.

"Many times older adults have to make the decision, 'Do I take my medicine, do I feed my pet or do I eat?' And they're trying to compromise to help everybody and everything."

In North Carolina, food assistance is available for individuals with an annual household income of $21,000 a year or less, including food benefits of $74 to $114 a month. It isn't much, Lafollette-Black says, but many seniors who are eligible don't apply.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC