A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New reports show food insecurity among adults in Kentucky is among the highest in nation

As part of Older Americans Month, Feeding Kentucky and God’s Pantry Food Bank released the Hunger Among Adults Age 50-59 in 2017 and The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2017, two studies about food insecurity among seniors in the United States published by Feeding America®. The reports shed light on the extent to which food insecurity, or lack of access to nutritious food, affects seniors in the United States, offering deeper insights into the experience of food insecurity among the aging population.
The Hunger Among Adults report finds that Kentucky has the highest rate in the nation of food insecurity among adults age 50 – 59. Nationally, the food insecurity rate among adults age 50-59 was 11.3 percent while in Kentucky the rate was 18.6 percent. The data are from 2017, the most recent year for which data are available.
The State of Senior Hunger report shows that Kentucky’s 8.4 percent food insecurity rate for seniors age 60 or older was also higher than the national average of 7.7 percent in 2017, the most recent year for which data are available.

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“Too many older adults and senior citizens in Kentucky are struggling to put food on table after decades of hard work,” said Feeding Kentucky Executive Director Tamara Sandberg. “They are faced with agonizing choice such as paying for food or paying for medicine. We must do more to ensure that the golden years are truly golden for every Kentuckian.”
“The data provided through these studies is a sobering reinforcement of the critical call to action fighting hunger,” said God’s Pantry Food Bank CEO Michael Halligan.  “We are grateful for the resources entrusted to the Food Bank that allow us to work with more than 400 food pantries and meal programs across Central and Eastern KY to reduce the pangs of hunger in every community.”
Key findings include:

·  Overall, the change in the rate and number of food-insecure seniors from 2016 to 2017 is not statistically significantly different. The rate and number of food-insecure seniors has gone down since reaching a peak in 2014, but they remain substantially higher than in 2007, before the Great Recession, when 6.3 percent of seniors were food insecure.

· Food insecurity is more prevalent among adults aged 50-59 than among seniors 60 and older, signaling that many among the next wave of adults joining a growing senior population may struggle to make ends meet.  Unlike many states across the U.S., Kentucky has not seen a decline in food insecurity for adults aged 50-59 in the past few years.

· In 2017, seniors who live in the southern United States are more likely to be food insecure.

· Seniors who live with grandchildren are more likely to be food insecure than seniors who do not. One in six seniors in multi-generational households (15.7 percent) is food insecure, compared to 7.3 percent of seniors who do not reside with grandchildren.

· Among food-insecure older adults age 50-59, 41.6 percent are disabled.
“After a lifetime of working and raising families, it is unacceptable that 5.5 million seniors face hunger,” said Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. “As a nationwide network of 200 food banks, Feeding America is making significant investments in our senior hunger strategy to understand the barriers seniors face and support programs that increase access to nutritious food for seniors throughout the country.”

For the third consecutive year, The State of Senior Hunger in America was produced by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity with a nationwide network of 200 food banks. This is the first year Feeding America has produced the Hunger Among Older Adults report. The studies were conducted by researchers Dr. James P. Ziliak and Dr. Craig Gundersen. The full reports can be found here.
“The high rate of food insecurity among 50-59-year-olds in Kentucky is very concerning, both on its own, and because of research showing that food insecurity is associated with many negative health outcomes,” said Dr. James Ziliak, Director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research and co-author of the report.

“Onset of poor health at this age portends greater challenges for aging in place as these older adults approach retirement.”
Join the conversation about The State of Senior Hunger on social media using #SolveSeniorHunger.

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