Food Insecurity Affects 1 in 10 Oklahoma Seniors
by Treba Shyers, Hunger Outreach Specialist, Hunger Free Oklahoma
May 14, 2019
Senior Hunger is a real issue throughout the nation and our state of Oklahoma. When we think about hunger, many times we think about children or people experiencing homelessness. Rarely do we think about senior citizens. Why? Because the “golden years” are supposed to be about retirement, traveling, and grandbabies.
Seniors face many challenges as they age. Many live on fixed incomes. Seniors on fixed incomes are faced with choosing between purchasing food versus prescriptions, rent, or utilities. With limited mobility and dependence on outside assistance, this population has an increased risk of food insecurity and hunger. Seniors who are food insecure are at a much higher risk for chronic health conditions.
- 14% of the population is seniors.
- 28% of those seniors are living alone.
- 28% of Oklahoma senior households have an annual income of less than $20K.
- The average Social Security Income in Oklahoma is $16,583/year.
- The senior population is projected to increase 37% over the next 15 years.
One federally funded nutrition program is not being utilized to the fullest by the senior population: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
- 11% of Oklahoma seniors struggle with food insecurity.
- In year 2015, only 32% of eligible Oklahoma seniors benefitted from SNAP.
- In year 2017, the average monthly SNAP benefit for senior households was $101.
Seniors participating in SNAP not only increase their food security, but also improve their overall health. SNAP helps to reduce healthcare costs, as SNAP participants are less likely than non-SNAP participants to be hospitalized or have long hospitals stays.
In addition to SNAP, there are many nonprofit, government, and volunteer organizations that help seniors access the nutritional assistance they need to live healthy lives. Some of these programs include:
Federal Senior Nutrition Programs
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP): SFMNP provides low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs.
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): CACFP provides reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children and adults who are enrolled for care at participating child care centers, day care homes, and adult day care centers.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): CSFP works to improve the health of low-income persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA Foods.
Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Programs: Meals on Wheels utilizes the OAA nutrition programs to provide in-home meals to seniors. The Older Americans Act supports two nutrition programs through the Administration for Community Living (ACL):
The Congregate Nutrition Program serves healthy meals while promoting opportunities for social engagement, volunteer opportunities, and health and wellness activities. The program primarily serves seniors who live in group settings, such as senior centers.
The Home-Delivered Nutrition Program provides healthy meals and wellness checks to older adults who are homebound.
These federal programs are influential in serving the senior population. Most are not intended to, or have the ability to, meet all the nutrition requirements of seniors, but rather to provide some assistance. These programs are serving the maximum amount of people their funding allows, resulting in a long waiting list. This leaves many seniors without access to resources.
Together we can ensure Oklahoma seniors have access to SNAP. Educate your representatives about senior hunger in your community. Community and state partners can work together to advocate and promote practices and policies to assist with a better enrollment process for the programs listed above for the seniors in our state. It is time for us to take care of our seniors.