Kentucky has the nation’s highest rate of food insecurity for adults who are in their 50s. In the Green River area there more than 340 seniors on a waiting list for a daily hot meal.
Food insecurity is a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.
A report from Feeding America shows hunger among adults ages 50 – 59 is highest in Kentucky. The Commonwealth’s rate of food insecurity is at 19 percent, compared to the national rate of 11 percent.
Another report from the State of Senior Hunger in America in 2017, focusing on Americans 60 and older, showed Kentucky has a food insecurity rate of about eight percent, slightly above the national average.
According to Feeding America, 63 percent of households with older adults older than 50 have to choose between buying groceries or medical care. Food insecurity can have a wide impact, depending on each individual’s circumstances. Some of the most common effects of food insecurity include health complications, especially when people facing hunger are forced to choose between spending money on food and medicine or medical care.
Jennifer Williams, associate director for aging and social services at the Green River Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, said the study is talking about people who don’t have the money to buy food and don’t qualify for free meal programs since they are not 60 years of age.
“These people don’t qualify for programs like Meals on Wheels,” she said. “This study shows that there are seniors who are not financially able to buy the groceries they need.”
Williams said GRADD does its best to connect older residents who don’t have enough food with food assistance. She said soup kitchens and churches often help fill the need for food for these seniors.
“It’s disturbing to me that right here in our backyard, our neighbors and friends don’t have enough money to buy the food they need,” she said. “I think it’s up to all of us to help combat this issue.”
Another thing Williams said people need to realize is many of these seniors are helping raise grandchildren.
“A lot of times they will go hungry so the kids can eat,” she said.
To help get food to seniors across their service region GRADD has an annual food drive.
“We have a ‘Feed Seniors Now’ program where we partner with Independence Bank and Comfort Keepers to collect food donations,” she said. “This helps feed seniors and free up some of their income to be used for bills and healthcare.
The Green River agency, headquartered in Owensboro, currently provides roughly 1,000 hot meals a day to senior centers and homebound residents in Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union and Webster counties.
The Feeding America studies found that nationwide 5.5 million seniors face hunger.