Ky. has highest rate of food insecurity among older adults

Could worsen due to COVID-19 pandemic

FRANKFORT, Ky. — As part of Older Americans Month, Feeding Kentucky announced Thursday the release of Hunger Among Adults Age 50-59 in 2018  and The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2018, two studies about food insecurity among older adults and seniors in the United States published by Feeding America. The reports shed light on the extent to which food insecurity – or having limited access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy lifestyle – affects our neighbors age 50 and older.

The Hunger Among Adults Age 50-59 in 2018 report shows that for the second year in a row, Kentucky has the highest rate in the nation of food insecurity among older adults. Kentucky’s rate of food insecurity among adults age 50-59 was 17.3 percent in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. According to The State of Senior Hunger in America in 2018, 6.9 percent of Kentucky seniors age 60 and older were food insecure in 2018. In the Louisville metro area, 10.3 percent of seniors were food insecure in 2018.

“After a lifetime of working and raising families, it is unacceptable that 5.3 million seniors face hunger and that many more may be vulnerable due to this pandemic,” 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.”

Other key findings include:

  • The current national rate of food insecurity among seniors (7.3 percent) remains substantially above the rate in 2007 (6.3 percent).
  • Food insecurity does not impact all seniors equally. Black and Hispanic seniors experience food insecurity at higher rates than White and non-Hispanic seniors, respectively. Seniors with disabilities have food insecurity rates over twice as high as seniors without disabilities.  Seniors who live with grandchildren are more likely to be food insecure than seniors who do not.
  • Adults age 50-59 who are unemployed or report a disability as the reason they are out of labor force are significantly more likely to experience food insecurity compared to older adults who are employed or retired.

“The fact that Kentucky had the highest rate of food insecurity among older adults even before the current health pandemic, and we now have nearly 4 in 10 workers filing for unemployment insurance, speaks to the dire financial and health straights faced by our fellow citizens in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research and co-author of the reports.

“We should not tolerate having any older adult or senior citizen in Kentucky at risk of hunger after decades of hard work,” said Feeding Kentucky Executive Director Tamara Sandberg. “It is especially troubling to see so many Kentuckians aged 50-59 struggling to put on the table and having to choose between food and medical care – a situation the pandemic will only make worse.”

The Lift A Life Novak Family Foundation recently awarded Feeding Kentucky a $35,000.00 grant to address the increased need for food assistance among senior citizens during the pandemic. Funds will be used to support collaborative efforts across the commonwealth to deliver emergency food boxes to senior citizens’ homes.

“The current pandemic reveals that we must do more to creatively combat the troubling food insecurity that exists among our growing senior population,” said Ashley Butler Novak, Executive Director of the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation. “We are honored to partner with feeding Kentucky and their critical partners to bring much needed food directly to the homes of our senior citizens.”

The studies were conducted by researchers Dr. James P. Ziliak and Dr. Craig Gundersen and is the source for national-, state- and metro-level information about food insecurity among seniors age 60 and older. The full reports can be found here.