It’s not who you might think. According to the AARP Bulletin, we live in a country that throws out between 30 and 40 percent of it’s food supply, an estimate of over one-hundred and sixty billion dollars. In the US, we’re just days past the biggest meal of the year, searching Pinterest to find creative ways to use up the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers, though for many of us, we’re just done, and we’ve tossed out lots of snacks and side dishes right along with the turkey carcass.
This post isn’t about all of our excess for a change, though, it’s about the people in our country who are hungry, or what is known today as “food insecure.” ‘Food insecure’ is a ridiculous term – it’s a euphemism so that we don’t have to admit that in America, the land of opportunity, there are people who don’t have enough to eat. How many people? According to statistics gathered in 2015, over thirteen percent of households or 43.1 million Americans.
While it’s criminal and tragic that the majority of households that suffer from food insecurity hunger are households with children being parented by single mothers, what struck me is that in 2014, 5.4 million people over the age of sixty, a whopping nine percent, are hungry. Three out of five seniors who qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) do not participate in the program. Lack of mobility, access and knowledge of technology and the stigma associated with needing assistance are some of the reasons for this lack of participation.
These are our parents and grandparents who don’t have enough to eat. According to the National Council on Aging, their inability to purchase quality food that offers good nutrition leads to diseases like diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, gum disease, and asthma.
So what do we do about it? How do we help those who are struggling? First, pay attention. Are there older adults living in your neighborhood? Going to your church? Get to know them and watch out for them, making sure that they are able to get to the store, offer to pick up groceries for them, drop off a meal or extra groceries, especially if the weather has been bad. Next, research and let them know about programs that are available in your area or national programs, like Meals on Wheels or SNAP. Lastly, invite them over for a meal or to join you for lunch or dinner and make sure there are some leftovers for them to take home. And maybe the next time you see an older person in line behind you at the grocery store, you simply pay it forward.