Coming Soon from FRAC and the AARP Foundation: Free Online Course for Health Care Providers and Community-Based Partners

Screen and Intervene: Addressing Food Insecurity Among Older Adults

In just 60 minutes, health care providers and community-based partners can learn how to screen patients age 50 and older for food insecurity and connect them to key nutrition resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The course is approved for 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ (MDs and DOs). All other learners can download a certificate of participation upon completion of the course. See the course, when it launches later this month, for more information.

Did You Know?
Nationally, 15.6 million households are food insecure, including 2.8 million households with at least one adult aged 65 or older. Millions more households with seniors face marginal food security.

Quick Facts

  • In 2014, 46 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, comprising 15 percent of the total population.
  • In 2016, 2.8 million food-insecure households included a senior aged 65 or older.
  • 1.2 million seniors who lived alone were food insecure in 2016, and approximately 470,000 of these seniors were experiencing very low food insecurity.
  • Ten percent, or 4.6 million, of seniors age 65 and over lived at or below the poverty level in 2014.
  • SNAP is the first line of defense against senior hunger.

Sources:

Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C. A., & Singh, A. (2017). Household food security in the United States in 2016. Economic Research Report, 237. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. (2016). Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

SNAP is the first line of defense against senior hunger.

  • SNAP is the First Line of Defense Against Senior Hunger
    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

    • is available to every eligible senior, in every corner of the country.
    • provides seniors with significant food purchasing power every month of the year.
    • improves food insecurity and health, helping seniors to maintain their independence.
    • reaches by far and away more seniors than any of the federal nutrition programs available to seniors. In fiscal year 2015, SNAP served an average of about 4.4 million households with elderly individuals (age 60 or older) each month, but SNAP could reach millions of more eligible seniors.

    In addition to SNAP, seniors could be eligible for additional federal programs depending on their income, health status, age, and whether the program is available in their area.

    Source: Farson Gray, K., Fisher, S., & Lauffer, S. (2016). Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2015. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support.

  • Senior SNAP Participation
    Only an estimated 42 percent of eligible seniors participate in SNAP. This compares to 86 percent of non-elderly adults. Why?

    • Stigma
    • Misinformation about the program
    • Lack of information on how to apply
    • Barriers related to mobility

    One of the key strategies to addressing senior hunger is to connect more eligible seniors to SNAP. To improve participation, FRAC is working to remove barriers facing seniors through federal legislation that will improve benefit levels, and by partnering with state officials, advocates, service providers and other stakeholders to strengthen state policies.

    Source: Farson Gray, K., & Cunnyngham, K. (2016). Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2010 to Fiscal Year 2014. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support.

  • Risk Factors for Food Insecurity Among Older Adults
    Certain older adults are at higher risk for food insecurity than others. Research shows that food insecurity rates tend to be higher among older adults who are:

    • Low income
    • Less educated (i.e., less than a high school education)
    • Black
    • Hispanic
    • Separated or divorced, or never married
    • Residing in the South
    • Unemployed
    • Living with a disability
    • Living alone
    • “Younger” older adults (food insecurity among older adults decreases somewhat with age due to the availability of age-specific safety net programs, such as Medicare and Social Security)

    Source: Strickhouser, S., Wright, J. D., & Donley, A. M. (2014). Food Insecurity Among Older Adults. Washington, DC: AARP Foundation. (Technical note: Based on low and very low food security data presented in Table 2b for 50-59 year olds and Table 2c for those aged 60 and older.)

  • Older Adults Living with Children
    Older adults may reside in a household with children under 18 years of age (e.g., their own children, grandchildren), which can increase the likelihood of experiencing food insecurity. Parents and caregivers often try to protect children from food insecurity by, for example, sacrificing their own food and nutrition needs so that the children can eat.

    National data show that:

    • Rates of household food insecurity are 1.5 times higher among households with any children present (compared to households without children).
    • Rates of household food insecurity are two times higher among households with a grandchild present (compared to households without a grandchild present).

    Sources:

    Do, D., Rodgers, R., & Rivera Drew, J. A. (2015). Multigenerational families and food insecurity in the United States, 1998-2013. Integrated Health Interview Series, Data Brief No. 1.

    Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C. A., & Singh, A. (2017). Household food security in the United States in 2016. Economic Research Report, 237. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

    Ziliak, J. P., & Gundersen, C. (2016). Multigenerational families and food insecurity. Southern Economic Journal, 82(4), 1147–1166.

  • Other Federal Nutrition Programs for Seniors
    In addition to SNAP, seniors could be eligible for additional federal programs depending on their income, health status, age, and whether the program is available in their area.
Maryland Enacts Legislation to Provide Seniors With Additional SNAP Benefits
Thousands of Maryland seniors struggle to put food on the table. Thanks to legislation pushed by Maryland Hunger Solutions, that struggle became a little bit more bearable.
SNAP Benefits for Seniors