Food insecurity for older adults is a growing problem in America, more than doubling since 2001. A 2020 report on hunger by Feeding America indicates 4.4% of our Montana neighbors over the age of 60 face food insecurity. They may be disabled, dealing with health issues, supporting children or grandchildren, and often live on fixed incomes. Also, many seniors cope with limited mobility and face social isolation, making hunger often unseen and life-threatening.
Verlyn Turner, a 75-year-old retiree on a fixed income, found himself without a home a few years ago. While living in his car, he turned to Helena Food Share for food. Because he didn’t have access to a kitchen, our pantry staff and volunteers quickly helped Verlyn find food that he could easily prepare. They also helped Verlyn connect with community resources that eventually enabled him to locate affordable housing.
Verlyn told us recently, “If it hadn’t been for Food Share, I would have been starving.”
Today, Verlyn has an apartment but still needs help with food each month. He’s grateful for the support and understanding of everyone in the pantry. “They’re a great bunch of people to be with and talk to,” he said. “Whenever I have asked to substitute a few items, they are more than willing to help me out.” Unfortunately, Verlyn’s situation is not rare.
Shopping for and preparing nutritious food can be overwhelming or physically demanding for some seniors. If you know someone over 60 facing hunger or who may need help getting the food they need, consider the following and help them reach out for support.
- Offer transportation to and from a grocery store, our food pantry or a farmer’s market.
- Provide recipe ideas and cooking tips.
- Shop with them – offer help reading labels or finding the most nutritious options.
- Assist with enrollment in Senior Commodities, Farmer’s Market Coupons, Meals On Wheels, Rocky’s Dinner Clubs or SNAP.
Your support of Helena Food Share programs is vital for providing programs specifically for seniors. It helps deliver federally-funded nutrition programs such as Senior Commodities, which provide a staple of nutritious food every two months for income eligible adults over 60. These customers may also qualify for USDA-funded Farmer’s Market coupons. Distributed by Helena Food Share each summer, the coupons allow seniors to shop and supplement their diets with fresh produce.
Understanding the many faces of hunger is essential for creating a hunger-free community and meeting the unique needs of older adults.