Here in Central Florida, and throughout the nation, millions of seniors find it challenging to consistently finenutritious food.
Although our nation produces a rich cornucopia of food and agricultural products valued at an estimated $400 billion annually, 30% to 40% of that food supply, an estimated $162 million, is discarded while millions of American seniors wonder where their next healthy meal will come from.
Nationally, the “food insecure” population among those 50 years of age or over has doubled since 2001 to roughly 10 million.
Florida is ranked 8th in agricultural exports and 12th in number of farms and beef cows, but paradoxically, over 700,000 or 1 in 7 seniors in our state must choose between healthy food and rent or medication.
Moreover, as baby boomers age, the number of food insecure seniors is expected to increase by 50%, further exacerbating an already serious problem.
Hunger is a health issue. Poor nutrition leads to deleterious health consequences such as heart disease, asthma, and depression.
Efforts to combat nutritional need have traditionally focused on providing people with food, but according to the AARP Foundation, “Short term solutions do little to build food security for seniors in the long term.”
Recent collaboration between the health care industry, government agencies and non-profits such as Feeding America and AARP, along with major food retailers and the agricultural food chain, has focused on efforts to increase access to nutritious, affordable food while keeping community retail stores profitable.
- A 2014 Gallup survey said that 1 in 6 Americans could not afford food at times during the year.
- The average SNAP enrollee gets approximately $127, less than 75% of what is needed for food during the month.
- Roughly 23.5 million Americans live in “food deserts,” areas with limited access to healthy food such as produce.
- Low-income consumers typically buy the most inexpensive and least nutritious food.
Second Harvest Food Bank helps fill the gap by providing food in a variety of ways that include as much healthy product as possible while reaching out to areas with the greatest need.
To learn more about food insecurity in our region, consider attending our “Food for Thought” presentation, a one-hour informative session that includes a tour of our food bank.
Follow this link to sign up:
Childhood Hunger Programs Manager
Sources: USDA, Florida Department of Agriculture, AARP Foundation, Florida Association of Food Banks, Gallup.