Hunger among seniors is especially troublesome because many seniors have unique nutritional needs due to medical conditions. A proper diet is essential to maintaining health. Hunger affects the safety, health, well-being, and dignity of our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors.

Senior Hunger in Pennsylvania

  • 2.18 million residents are 65 years of age or older
  • 11.8% of PA seniors are food insecure
  • Since the onset of the recession in 2007 until 2014, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 65%
  • The estimated average annual social security benefit for a retired person is $16,092 – between $4,600 and $13,400 less than the standard amount needed for basic living expenses for a senior citizen in Pennsylvania

Health Consequences of Senior Hunger

Decrease in Activity and Mobility

  • Seniors at risk of hunger are more likely to have physical limitations similar to that of a person 14 years older. For example, a 65 year-old person at risk of hunger would have the limitations of a 79 year-old person.

Decrease in Health

Poor nutrition…

  • Impedes a senior’s ability to effectively recover
  • Limits intake of essential vitamins
  • Reduces efficacy of prescription drugs
  • Exacerbates problems from pre-existing health conditions

Increase in Hospital Stays and Chronic Disease

Seniors at risk of hunger are…

  • 1.6X more likely to have heart failure
  • 1.5X more likely to be diabetic
  • 2X more likely to be in poor health
  • 3X more likely to suffer from depression

Hard Choices for Seniors at Risk of Hunger

Every month, seniors with fixed incomes are forced to make difficult decisions when it comes to food. Coping strategies of seniors:

  • 73% purchase cheap, unhealthy food
  • 60% eat food past expiration date
  • 35% water down their food and drinks

Food Assistance Programs Reduce Food Insecurity and its Negative Impacts

The Commodity Supplemental Nutrition Program (CSFP) provides nearly 35,000 low-income Pennsylvania seniors with monthly boxes of food that help them maintain the proper nutrition to reduce the risk of chronic illness.

Home-delivered and congregate meals help meet critical nutritional needs of seniors. Research has found that food insecure seniors who participate in programs such as Meals on Wheels have decreased signs of depression.

Participation in SNAP (food stamps) can help seniors stabilize food-related illnesses, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce hospital stays. Pennsylvania’s AARP director is making it a priority to increase senior participation in SNAP.

Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides eligible seniors with checks to purchase locally-sourced fresh produce.


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