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Kentucky Ranked 6th Nationally for Senior Hunger

Food insecurity can result in various health problems for older adults, including depression, diabetes and heart problems. (Pixabay)
Food insecurity can result in various health problems for older adults, including depression, diabetes and heart problems. (Pixabay)
May 17, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A new report shows that hunger among older Kentuckians is a persistent problem.

According to findings released by the Kentucky Association of Foodbanks, nearly 1 in 10 adults age 60 and older was food insecure in Kentucky in 2016.

While there has been progress in recent years combating hunger, the report notes food insecurity rates for seniors are now higher than before the start of the Great Recession.

"Our concern is both the numbers that we see today but also, as we look forward into the not-so-distant future, the number of seniors are going to increase and we also believe that the number of seniors in need is going to greatly increase," says Stan Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives with Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville

Nationally, the food insecurity rate for those ages 60-plus is nearly 8 percent, which means almost 5 million older Americans are struggling with hunger.

Kentucky has the sixth highest rate among states.

Siegwald notes that accessing healthy food can be a challenge for anyone on a tight budget, but says seniors face more restrictive factors in their home environment.

"You're more likely to be unable to drive, you may not be able to walk as far, you are more likely to live in a community that is a food desert, so being able to reach a grocery store or to reach a food pantry is more challenging for you," he points out.

The report says older adults who are food insecure are at a much greater risk of diabetes, heart problems and asthma compared with those of the same age who are food-secure.

Siegwald says the problems go beyond nutrition.

"Food has gathering power, and so many seniors suffer social isolation,” he states. “So the question becomes how can we use food to help address the loneliness that they have that has an impact on their health and their quality of life."

Siegwald adds that solutions are needed to address hunger among seniors that aren't stigmatizing, such as food-insecurity screenings at medical check-ups, and more ways to provide meals to seniors who are unable to get out of their homes.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY