According to a study by the The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger and Feeding America, nearly 5 million seniors age 60 and older in the United States were food insecure in 2016.
What does it mean to be “food insecure?” A person who is food insecure is at risk for hunger. A person who is food insecure does not have reliable access to enough nutritious, affordable food. This can be for a variety of reasons. Examples of some factors that can contribute to food insecurity include:
- A person may not be able to afford food.
- A person may not have reliable transportation to go to the grocery store.
- There may not be enough grocery stores that sell fresh, nutritious foods in the neighborhood.
Seniors who are food insecure are at risk for malnutrition. This risk increases if the person also has a cancer diagnosis. Cancer patients with malnutrition may experience
- Loss of muscle strength
- Frequent infections
- Complications from surgery
- Breaks in treatment
- More hospital admissions
- Decreased quality of life.
Good nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment and health in general, but for a senior struggling with food insecurity, making good food choices isn’t that simple.
In addition to food insecurity, seniors may face other barriers to good nutrition. Some seniors may not be physically able to prepare food for themselves because of cognitive or mobility issues.
There are resources and programs available for seniors to help provide them with nutritious food.
Food Programs & Resources for Seniors
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” provides nutrition assistance to eligible low-income individuals, but less than half of eligible seniors participate in SNAP. The USDA is working to make the program more accessible to seniors by simplifying the application process. Learn more about the program in our SNAP blog post.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Through this program, low-income seniors can receive monthly packages of food to supplement their menus. Learn more about the program and eligibility here.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Through this program low-income seniors receive coupons that can be exchanged for healthy foods at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs (CSA). Learn more about the program and eligibility here.
Meals on Wheels. This program delivers free or low-cost meals to seniors at home. Meal delivery is offered nationwide but facilitated by independently-run local programs. Use the Meals on Wheels locator to find a local program.
For more resources such as food pantries and food banks, visit our Other Helpful Organizations Page.
Nutrition Education Resources for Seniors
Choosing Healthy Meals As Your Get Older. This infographic from the USDA provides 10 healthy eating tips for seniors: Click here.
National Institute on Aging. Find information on smart food choices for healthy aging from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the National Institutes of Health here.
For Seniors on Eatrigh.org. This page provides information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics about healthy aging and addresses the special nutrition needs of older adults. Learn more here.