An End to Hunger? Let’s hope.

People Eating Thanksgiving Dinner
Image by Daniel Greene via Flickr

AARP just posted a tweet about their new campaign, “Drive to end Hunger.” I’m glad I happened to catch it, because many of us, myself included, probably don’t think about this issue very often. According to their campaign website, some 6 million people go hungry in this country daily. Most are seniors.

So the organization has teamed up with NASCAR Champ Jeff Gordon, to raise awareness of this hidden, yet prevalent problem. Gordon’s Foundation will support the cause financially, and the team will be wearing special patches on their suits to bring more attention to senior hunger among their loyal fan base.

If you don’t think this is a big problem where you live, take a closer look. An interactive map lets you see how your state ranks compared with others in terms of the percentage of 60-90 year olds that are at risk of going without a meal. Mississippi ranked number 1, in this case, the worst, with 12.29 percent of it’s senior citizens potentially hungry.

Often, it comes down to a choice between buying food or purchasing needed medication, according to the AARP’s Policy Institute. Remember, most senior are on fixed incomes – Social Security alone is often not be enough to make ends meet. Many are poor, and live alone.

despite the sizable overall decline in elderly poverty since the 1960s, poverty remains unacceptably high for many, including older black and Hispanic women, more than a third of whom have incomes below poverty or just above the poverty line.

But don’t think it’s just minorities that are at risk – over two-thirds of all hungry seniors are white, according to the Meals on Wheels Foundation. Government programs like SNAP – the supplemental nutrition assistance program (formerly known as Food Stamps) provide assistance to eligible applicants. But these programs are overwhelmed with applicants, and it can sometimes take months to get approved. Meals on Wheels and similar programs are hurting due to the sluggish economy and decline in private sector support.

Seniors who go hungry are in poorer health, have more trouble with daily living activities, and are seriously deficient in some important vitamins and minerals. Meals on Wheels is  running a campaign to ensure that local facilities are maintained, homebound seniors don’t go without food, and are able to maintain the independence to live in their own homes.

If you think hunger among seniors isn’t that serious, think again. I did.

If you want to donate money, volunteer, or help raise awareness, visit AARP or Meals on Wheels for more information on how you can help.

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