Utah Joins Battle Against Seniors' Food Insecurity

Apr 11, 2017

More than 10 million Americans age 60 and older are at risk of hunger every day, according to the National Council on Aging.

Ginette Bott, chief development officer with the Utah Food Bank, said there are simple steps anyone can take to help people living on fixed incomes or with limited transportation options.

She notes it's important to put a spotlight on food insecurity among seniors.

"But it's easy for us to forget, because these people aren't out and about - they are staying at home," she pointed out. "So, for those of us who are mobile and can get around and to do the things we take for granted, we really need to extend the courtesy to check on our neighbors who might be senior citizens."

Bott said one option is to volunteer with a local food bank or pantry. She points out services for seniors are also easy to access by calling the state's 211 service, where you can enter a zip code to find meals, get help with rent, medical assistance or other needs.

Utah Food Bank volunteers go to the same older person's home for six months in a row to establish rapport and make sure everything's okay - that that senior's lights are on and he or she has running water.

Bott said sometimes, a home bound person just needs some contact with the outside world, and someone to check on the basics. And of course, volunteers also deliver important food items to help stretch limited budgets.

"It's about a seven to nine day supply of food, which is canned food, perishables, non-perishables, fresh produce, bread - you know, all sorts of things that will help them get through the month," she explained.

Research has shown food insecurity contributes to such chronic medical conditions as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

And the relationship between hunger and health can become a vicious cycle - as low-income seniors spend more on health care, they have even less money for food.