Hunger-Free Minnesota (www.hungerfreemn.com) announced today that new data shows a disturbing picture of Minnesota seniors who are going without food because they don’t have enough money to buy food and still pay for other basic needs.
New data shows the need for senior food support is rising. There has been a 22% increase in senior households receiving Food Support from 2008 to 2010. Of the 88,000 seniors living below the poverty line*, less than half accessed the Minnesota Food Support system. Those working in hunger relief programs say many seniors don’t know they qualify for the Federal dollars.
“In 2010, the average grant for seniors who did access the program was $76.00 a month, a meaningful extension to a senior’s food budget,” said Dr. Stacey Stockdill, president of EnSearch, Inc., the organization that compiled the data. “It’s important that seniors and community members are aware that this support is available. Enrolled seniors can shop at their regular grocery store with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that electronically transfers money to the store when they purchase their food.”
The reality of senior hunger in the state may be surprising. Data shows that 90 percent of seniors accessing the Food Support system today live alone. More than half of the seniors in this group are living with a disability. They are likely to have at least a high-school education, and they may have some college education as well. A typical Minnesota senior receiving some Food Support to supplement their income is white, age 69, widowed or divorced.
- Less than half of seniors below the poverty line are enrolled in Food Support
- 90% of seniors on Minnesota Food Support are living alone
- Most of the seniors obtaining Food Support in Minnesota are white; 88% are U.S. citizens
- Nearly half of persons in all senior households are disabled
- 31% of those on Minnesota Food Support live in Hennepin County
- 37% live in Greater Minnesota
- 2/3 of those getting Food Support in Minnesota are women
- Half of Minnesota seniors have a high school degree or higher
- 13% of those receiving Food Support have at least some college education
Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota says the food program is important to keeping seniors healthy and independent. “We want seniors in our state to enroll in the Minnesota Food Support Program if they cannot always afford enough quality food to stay healthy. Seniors who are hungry can be out of sight and out of mind. But our data shows that they are in our midst, and that too many of them are not getting the help they need.”
Changes to state regulations have made it easier for seniors to apply. The Minnesota Food HelpLine is a good place to start if there are questions about eligibility or the enrollment process. Seniors include Minnesotans at least 60 years of age. Eligibility is based primarily on income available for food. Seniors who own their own home may still be eligible. The Minnesota Food HelpLine is 1-888-711-1151.
With the graying of Minnesota as the first baby boomers reach 65 in 2012, the numbers of seniors in our state will continue to grow. A continued economic downturn and the Senior Access Index data suggests that hunger among seniors will grow as well, unless participation in food support programs improves.
Unlike the problem of hunger among families with school-aged children, isolation contributes greatly to senior hunger. In rural areas, geographic isolation contributes to the hunger problem when family members move out of town or when a spouse dies. In cities, seniors may keep to themselves with limited contact with neighbors. Data shows that about a third of the seniors who access food support live in Hennepin County. Another third live in Greater Minnesota.
Hunger-Free Minnesota is coalition of community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies, food banks, food shelves and corporate partners including General Mills, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and others. Hunger-Free Minnesota already has obtained $3.5 million in private funding to implement its strategic action plan comprising 22 statewide initiatives aimed at solving the missing meal gap in Minnesota. Initiatives include system-wide changes, new partnerships, education, policy changes, direct grants and other support for local participating organizations. The coalition encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.”