Food insecurity became a major problem during the Great Recession and through the economic recovery that has followed, with 17.2 million American households facing food insecurity last year alone. Nearly 50 million Americans live in households that are food insecure, and the number of hungry Americans increased 30 percent during the recession.
The increase for senior citizens was even bigger, according to a new report from Meals On Wheels authored by professors at the University of Kentucky and University of Illinois. The number of seniors facing the threat of hunger has spiked 78 percent over the last decade, and though the risk of hunger has declined since the end of the recession across the board, it is still increasing for senior citizens, the Huffington Post reports:
One in seven seniors in America — some 8.3 million people — faced the threat of hunger in 2010, a 78 percent spike since 2001, according to a study released today by Meals On Wheels, the nonprofit that delivers meals to the homebound.
The “Senior Hunger Report Card” found while the risk of hunger for the U.S. population as a whole has declined since the end of the recession in 2009, it rose for people age 60 and older, mainly among those earning less than $30,000 –- or one to two times the poverty level.
Hunger for senior citizens disproportionately affects women and minorities. Three out of every five seniors facing hunger are women, and African-Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely to face hunger threats as whites. Though the numbers for those groups have shrunk since the end of the recession, they have still spiked over the last decade.
The threat of hunger poses serious problems for the economy, posing nutritional risks that lead to higher health costs across the country. And the problems are only exacerbated by proposed cuts to the social safety net. More than half of the food insecure households participate in the three major food assistance programs, but the recently-passed Republican budget guts those programs and others — like Medicare and Medicaid — that help keep millions of Americans from sinking into poverty, and the hunger that often comes with it, every year.