A recent study conducted by the non-profit Feeding America, found that 5.5 million older adults are facing food insecurity. This means that they are often skipping meals or not eating for an entire day.
Joan Grayson Cohen, Esq., LCSW-C, executive director of Jewish Community Services (JCS), explained that food insecurity is caused by a variety of factors, including financial insecurity.
“But it also goes deeper. Food insecurity might look like not having anybody who can shop for you,” Cohen said. “It could also be exemplified by having food in the refrigerator but because you have a mental or physical barrier, you can’t prepare the food yourself. It might also be that the food is prepared for you but because of dementia, you don’t remember to eat.”
A significant portion of barriers to food security stem from a lack of personal help, said Cohen. Especially for adults living independently, those lacking the resources to attain help with shopping, preparing and remembering to eat their food can experience food insecurity.
Some seniors are hesitant to access government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), despite experiencing food insecurity.
“About 42% of seniors who are eligible for SNAP don’t participate,” said Jean Davis, director of economic services at JCS.
Even if they’re not eligible for SNAP, Cohen said, they could be eligible for other government services such as utility or medicine benefits that would allow them to shift some of their money over to paying for food.
JCS offers a number of services for older adults to help mitigate food insecurity and increase access to personal care.
As a short-term solution, JCS offers gift cards to grocery stores that enables people to shop for their own food in a dignified way.
They also provide personal care dollars to help adults access and pay for in-home care.
“The need for those dollars is increasing,” Cohen said.
“It’s just going to become more challenging as the baby boomers age. By 2060, we expect the older adult population to more than double and we expect to see more food insecurity problems presenting themselves,” Davis said.
In addition to JCS, there are a number of services for older adults experiencing food insecurity.
Davis suggests that adults experiencing food insecurity or their care providers call 2-1-1, the community information and referral services line. Two-one-one can help elders and their providers access government benefits. To access a list of food pantries, visit 211md.org or call 211.
Other local organizations include Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland. Meals on Wheels delivers meals directly to housebound people. They have a sliding scale of costs depending on financial ability and offer kosher meals. Meals on Wheels can be contacted at 410-558-0827.
Ahavas Yisroel is another organization that offers a food pantry and weekly meal deliveries. Their number is 410-358-4464.
Maryland Food Bank offers a number of programs for those facing food insecurity. For older adults, they have My Groceries to Go!, a program that delivers groceries to the homes of low-income adults. The food bank can be reached at 410-737-8282.
Baltimore City has several programs for aging citizens including a home delivered meals service and several programs for helping seniors access home care. For home delivered meals call 410-558-0827 and for home care call 410-396-1605.