5 Ways to Fight Senior Food Insecurity

Food insecurity effects many older ones. Image displays a senior woman cooking at home.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

While food insecurity in America is not new, the coronavirus pandemic has created a heavy burden on affording and accessing food to more people than ever. In 2018, 11% of seniors in the United States, approximately 7.3 million, were considered food insecure or very low food secure [1]Gundersen, C. & Ziliak, J., MD. (2020, May 21). The State of Senior Hunger in America 2018: An Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.feedingamerica.org/research/senior-hunger-research/senior . These numbers will rise. Feeding America estimates an increase of 1 in 6 Americans who could face hunger based on COVID-19’s impact [2]Morello, P. (2020, July 21). The first months of the food bank response to COVID, by the numbers. Retrieved from … Continue reading.

The pandemic has helped me look at my capable but aging grandparents with fresh eyes. While our opinions on healthy food choices don’t always match, I search for ways to help them without taking away their autonomy. Whether you are a professional caretaker or a child or grandchild of an aging loved one, it’s crucial to be aware of anything which increases their risk of food insecurity.

Here are a few simple tips I used to help my grandparents when the lockdown began and a few more I wish I knew before!

Find out how food secure the senior is

It is a simple tip, but it is easy to believe all is status quo. Yet situations can change drastically. Look at the global changes this year alone.

Many seniors aren’t comfortable talking about financial restrictions or challenges, even with their family members. You can ask what they ate in your conversations or take a peek at their refrigerator. As a caretaker, it may require tact, but make sure the senior in your life has the food they need and if not, find out why they don’t.

Seniors often face limitations while using technology, yet many resources are easier to find on the internet. Most of the tips I’ve included involve website searches I did myself or my grandparents could do on their own. It’s also a good idea to write down telephone numbers as well.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Check if they qualify for income-based aid

The National Council on Aging has a handy tool online, Benefits Checkup, which can help see what is available in the senior’s area. It goes far beyond food insecurity and is a good one to review periodically or as the senior’s circumstances change.

SNAP has come a long way, and if your senior qualifies for the assistance program, it can be used in various places. For example, SNAP is accepted at many farms and farmer markets, Amazon, Walmart, and grocery stores in Massachusetts. 

Research food sources in your area

After you’ve checked on a national level, look locally. My grandparents discovered they qualified for free food delivery by calling their doctor’s office.

Searching through resources can be overwhelming, but finding affordable food ensures high-risk seniors are getting the best nutrition possible.

Try their local council on aging, as well as their city and state official websites.

Resources in Massachusetts

Since I’ve researched Massachusetts food insecurity the most, here are some organizations I came across. Some I’ve used and others I plan to contact! I visited this mass.gov link about buying local quite a bit during the beginning of the pandemic.

Project Bread is a fantastic nonprofit which, among other tools, offers a food source hotline. I called their tollfree number, 1-800-377-1292, to get an overview of what was available for my grandparents.

Another great tool in Massachusetts is the Greater Boston Food Bank. They cover 9 counties and over 190 towns in the region. For those in Western Massachusetts, visit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Cooking with seniors is an enriching activity and by bringing the ingredients with you can limit food insecurity.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Family or friends help seniors in food prep

I put this tip last since many caretakers buy or cook meals long before looking for outside help. Yet, a senior may not always qualify for certain types of aid. If you are able and willing, helping the seniors in your life with meal prep has benefits beyond ensuring they are food secure.

Consider cooking together if able. Why not ask them to teach you a family recipe and bring all the ingredients? You can enjoy a meal together and leave all the leftovers behind.

If you’re staying apart due to risk factors, prepare extra servings when you cook at home and drop off at their door. I’ve learned how to make Instant Pot potato salad for my grandparents’ pleasure.

You could also do their shopping or have things delivered to their house. Are you facing financial uncertainty right now, too? Just helping them search through the sources mentioned above can get them the assistance they need to stay as healthy as possible. These sources are for everyone, so if you lead by example and find support for yourself- if required- it can encourage the seniors you love.

Please share any tips you’ve come across for food resources if you are a senior or trying to help one. Next week, I’ll share some ways my grandparents get food during the pandemic without going into any stores.

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