By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News
Reprinted with permission
It wasn’t until the Maffuccis found themselves living on cups of coffee, and coffee alone, that they finally called a food pantry for help.
The couple had sold their suburban New Jersey home where they had raised three children and set out to pursue the glossy dream of an easygoing retirement in sunny southwest Florida. But Mina and Angelo Maffucci quickly ran out of money—overtaken by illness, bad luck and an economic crisis that claimed their Naples dream home to foreclosure. They soon found themselves staring at an empty cupboard.
“You open up the closet and all we had was coffee,” said Angelo Maffucci, 82, who had been a drywall installer in New Jersey. “I never thought we would be down on our hands and knees like that, but it happened fast.”
While the U.S. economy adds jobs and the financial markets steadily improve, a growing number of seniors are having trouble keeping food on the table. In 2013, 9.6 million Americans over the age of 60—or one of every six older men and women—could not reliably buy or access food at least part of the year, according to an analysis from researchers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Illinois, using the most recent data available.
The country was doing a “worse job in trying to end senior hunger in America,” said Enid Borden, president of the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger in Alexandria, Va., which commissioned the report. She noted the number of seniors who “face the threat of hunger has gone up every single year since we started doing the research on this. And that’s not good.”
Across the country, the rate of food insecurity—the academic term for a disruption in the ability to maintain a basic, nutritious diet—among seniors has more than doubled since 2001, according to the National Council on Aging. And it is projected