Our low-income seniors are often the most reluctant of our neighbors to ask for or accept help. The data shows that fewer eligible seniors sign up for 3SquaresVT than any other age group. Seniors who use the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) through the Vermont Foodbank often qualify for but are not enrolled in 3SquaresVT. Sally Ingraham, our 3SquaresVT outreach manager, takes the initiative to call or visit our older Vermont neighbors to find out why. She hears concerns that there won’t be enough for others who might need it more. Ingraham reassures seniors that getting 3SquaresVT doesn’t take away from anyone else and that having greater resources for food can keep us healthier and more productive by allowing us to eat well. Then she helps them fill out and submit the application. Ingraham overcomes any misunderstandings about the program and concern for others’ needs by just spending a little time listening and offering to help with the process. It makes all the difference. We think it’s worth the effort to give back to the Vermonters who built what we all enjoy today.
Feeding seniors is a national issue. The New York Times (March 14, 2014) reports the national standard of living for seniors is falling. Many adults are aging into hunger. A Meals on Wheels Foundation survey shows that the number of seniors experiencing hunger doubled between 2001 and 2011. The reasons are many: sometimes people are pushed out of the workforce as they reach 65, or rising costs of living simply drive them into poverty. And as food, housing, and transportation costs go up, federal programs that keep our seniors fed and healthy—like 3SquaresVT, Meals on Wheels, and Medicare—are shrinking.
We also know that as we age, health issues become more complicated and expensive. Lack of enough nutritious food directly affects quality of life and health care costs. “Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans,” a joint report by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, gives us some data to back up that commonsense idea.
The study finds that when compared to seniors who have enough healthy food to eat, food-insecure seniors are 53% more likely to have a heart attack, 52% more likely to suffer from asthma, and 40% more likely to have congestive heart failure. These conditions almost never exist in isolation and include a swirl of seemingly endless and expensive medical interventions. A small investment in an appropriate diet yields healthier, engaged seniors and vastly reduced health care bills.
Your Foodbank provides food and other support to many of the senior centers and meal sites across the state. Your financial support is what keeps us finding new ways to serve our seniors tomorrow while feeding them today. Please continue to give generously, and thank you.