Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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Hunger among Older Americans Spikes Nearly 80 Percent Since 2001

AARP Foundation report finds 1 in 11 Americans 50-plus at risk of hunger

Nearly 9 million Americans 50 and older face the risk of hunger, according to new research commissioned by AARP Foundation.  The report, produced by James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Craig Gundersen of the University found more than nine percent of older Americans were at risk of hunger in 2009—a 79 percent increase since 2001.
The report, “Food Insecurity among Older Adults,” is the first of its kind to examine this issue among people age 50 to 59—the youngest of the baby boomers.  Because they are typically too young for Social Security and Medicare and too old to qualify for programs designed for families with children, this age group can be hit particularly hard in bad economic times.  In 2009, 4.9 million 50- to 59-year-olds were at risk of hunger, representing a staggering 38 percent increase over 2007.
“For the first time, we have a fuller picture of hunger risk among all Americans 50-plus,” said AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins.  “But sadly, it’s far more bleak than before.  The recession has taken an especially large toll on older people—especially those in the middle class.” Jenkins noted that between 2007 and 2009 the most dramatic increase in food insecurity was among those with annual incomes above twice the poverty line. [The 2011 federal poverty guideline is $10,890 for a single person and $22,350 for a family of four.]
She announced the new research Aug. 30 at the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) annual conference in Chicago.  The AARP Foundation report builds on earlier research commissioned by MOWAA to examine hunger among people 60 and older.  AARP Foundation is working with hunger relief organizations like MOWAA and Feeding America to combat the growing problem of hunger among older Americans.
The Gunderson-Ziliak research found other disturbing trends:
  • The risk of hunger for African Americans and Hispanics age 50-59 was twice that of whites over the years studied.
  • Hunger risk is notably higher among those residing in the South.
o   The top 10 states with the highest rates of food insecurity among those 50-59 are Mississippi (13.79%); New Mexico (12.37 %); Arizona (12.08%); Texas (11.33%); South Carolina (11.27%); Alabama (11.07 percent); North Carolina (10.75%); Oregon (10.57%); Missouri (10.56%); and Ohio (10.41%).
o   Among people age 60+, the 10 states with the highest rate of food insecurity are Mississippi (12.45%); New Mexico (10.01%); Texas (9.67%); South Carolina (9.66%); Arkansas (9.61%); Georgia (8.74%); Louisiana (8.32%); Alabama (8.03%); Tennessee (7.97%) and Oklahoma (6.66%).
o   People age 50-59 who are at risk of hunger are 10 percent more likely to be disabled than people in the 40-49 or the 60+ groups.
AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger campaign is a national, multifaceted effort to raise awareness about older adult hunger in America and help raise funds to end it. Through Drive to End Hunger, AARP Foundation has donated more than 3 million meals in 2011 to Feeding America food banks across the country.  The Foundation also recently announced a grant making program to fund innovative solutions to the problem of hunger among people age 50+.
 “This report underscores the urgency of our work and the efforts of organizations like Meals On Wheels,” said Jenkins. “No one in this country—of any age—should go hungry.  With compassion and collaboration, we can solve this problem.”
For more information about hunger among older Americans, please visit www.drivetoendhunger.org.  Details about AARP Foundation’s Hunger Innovation Grants Program are available at www.aarp.org/hungergrants.

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