A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

More older adults in Kentucky are struggling with food insecurity as coronavirus pandemic drags on

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Kentucky has the highest rate in the nation of food insecurity among older adults, and that’s likely to worsen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released by the group Feeding America.

Using the most recent available data from 2018, researchers found that nearly 7% of Kentuckians over 60 and around 17% of adults age 50 to 59 were food insecure.

A new report finds that 5.3 million seniors struggled with food insecurity in 2018 and hunger advocates say COVID-19 could worsen the situation. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Stan Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives for Dare to Care Food Bank, says fixed incomes, higher health care costs, transportation issues and physical difficulty in preparing meals are all reasons many older Americans go hungry.

“All these things combine to create a stew that is not a good one when it comes to food insecurity for seniors,” he states.

Siegwald adds because seniors are at higher risk for COVID-19 illness and may face additional challenges accessing food amidst closures and social distancing orders, food insecurity among older Kentuckians is likely to increase.

According to the report, more than 5 million seniors across the country aren’t sure where their next meal will come from.

Siegwald says his colleagues are working to identify seniors recently experiencing food insecurity due to the coronavirus, as well as to boost home grocery deliveries, and even bring mobile markets into neighborhoods to give seniors a chance to shop for food from their front door.

“These are all ways to try to address the barriers of cost and accessibility that so many seniors face,” he points out.

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP, serves as the first line of defense against hunger for people of all ages, including seniors.

But Siegwald points out participation rates among eligible older adults are much lower than the overall population.

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