Americans throw away a lot of food. In fact, dumpsters are serviced at 60% or below fullness levels on average — and an estimated 30% to 40% of the entire nation’s food supply can be considered food waste. But despite the fact that we’re getting rid of an extraordinary amount of perfectly good food, the reality is that too many people in our own country are going hungry. That includes millions of senior citizens who are struggling to find one square meal per day.
In the U.S., more than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 on a daily basis. Senior citizens are the fastest-growing population in America, predicted to outpace any other demographic in only 10 years’ time. Given the growing costs of healthcare and of living in general, it’s no wonder that many seniors are forced to continue working until later in life; many even find that their retirement savings are nowhere near sufficient to cover their expenditures.
Now, a new study has revealed that many seniors are skipping meals because they can’t afford the price of food. Living on a fixed income is tremendously difficult when you’re dealing with increasing housing costs, sky-high healthcare rates, and student loan debt that 5.5 million older Americans were fund to skip meals or go an entire day without eating. The report revealed that one in 12 seniors over the age of 60 (representing 7.7% of the senior population in total) did not have enough food in 2017. By 2050, there will be an estimated 8 million food-insecure seniors living in the United States.
Interestingly, two-thirds of seniors who were forced to skip meals had incomes below the federal poverty line ($12,140 per year). What’s more, the youngest seniors (ages 60 to 64) were twice as likely to be food insecure as seniors aged 80 and above. That’s likely because many of these seniors were still in the workforce during the Great Recession, which meant that their financial losses were more substantial and their retirement plans never got the chance to recover.
The top nine states with the highest rates of food insecurity among seniors are Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Rhode Island, Kansas, and South Carolina. The metropolitan area of Memphis, Tennessee was actually named the number one location for hungry seniors, who represent 17.3% of all older Americans living there.
Of note, older Americans who live with their grandchildren are more likely to go hungry. Roughly 15.7% (or one in six) of seniors living in multi-generational households worry about their next meal, while the percentage of food insecure seniors not living with grandchildren is about half that. Researchers say that this is likely because grandparents are going without so that their grandchildren have enough. This relates to an overall growing trend of grandparents providing care for their grandchildren: nearly 2.7 million American grandparents were raising their grandkids in 2016. Whether this trend is fueled by unemployment, incarceration rates, opioid addiction, military deployment, or a combination of these factors, it’s clear that older Americans are taking on burdens they didn’t initially envision for themselves in their twilight years.
The report illustrates the importance of awareness and education among seniors who may be eligible for SNAP benefits. Since many seniors who are living above the poverty line are still struggling to afford daily meals, it’s clear that no one is immune to food insecurity.