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February 27, 2015

Hunger Facts: Food Insecurity Affects Seniors, Too

Did you know that in Missouri, over 190,000 seniors are struggling with food insecurity? While many of those seniors are receiving assistance to help them put food on the table, there are many that do not receive assistance.

Meals on Wheels reports that there are nearly 104,000 receiving their services, but that leaves more than 87,000 remaining food insecure that don’t receive their services. For many seniors, the financial difficulties obtaining food are complicated by additional challenges, such as limited transportation and reduced energy for preparing meals.

Seniors also have specific nutritional requirements that are different from other age groups. They have a reduced activity level, so they must be sure that every calorie counts, providing the highest number of nutrients possible. Seniors must also consume extra fruits, vegetables and lean meats because their bodies do not absorb nutrients as easily as they age.

Here are a few hunger facts related to seniors:

  • According to the Hunger in America 2014 report, one in three food insecure households has at least one senior over 60.
  • Meals on Wheels can provide a Missouri senior with meals for an entire year for only $1,479. However, the contribution from the federal government covers only 21 percent of that cost. This highlights the important role that state and local contributions, as well as private generosity, can play in helping our senior neighbors.
  • Over 500,000 of the seniors served by Meals on Wheels in the United States are veterans.
  • Of those receiving assistance from food banks and other programs, 66 percent are often forced to choose between purchasing food and paying for medical care. Sixty-nine percent had to choose between paying the utility bills and purchasing food.
  • Many of our neighbors that receive food assistance are struggling with a serious medical condition. The Hunger in America 2014 report indicated that among those receiving help from a local food bank or other program, 58 percent of households have at least one person with high blood pressure, and 33 percent of households have a member with diabetes.
  • Even if a senior facing food insecurity finds ways to piece together a meal, it may not be a nutritious one. Among those receiving assistance from a food pantry or other program, 79 percent reported purchasing the cheapest food possible, even if it was not a nutritious choice, simply to put a meal on the table.

While hunger facts provide a few glimpses into the problem, it is also important to look at what benefits might be provided through a solution:

  • Every dollar spent on nourishing seniors results in up to $50 saved in Medicaid spending.
  • If only one-quarter of all food insecure seniors in Missouri received services, the 32 million invested would be offset 50 times by the amount saved: $1.6 billion!

If you are interested in finding out more than about serving our senior neighbors, contact Second Harvest Community Food Bank. While hearing hunger facts may stir your interest, we invite you to take the next step to get involved and donate your time, food or funds to join our mission to build hunger-free communities.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/27/15, 10:00 AM


February 24, 2015

Nourishing Seniors: What You Need to Know

It is not unusual that one of our senior neighbors, after a lifetime of pouring their hard work and contributions into our community, will face circumstances that make it difficult to obtain the food they need. A medical crisis or a change in their financial situation can cause a senior to be food insecure.

Like all of us, seniors struggle to ask for the help they need when food insecurity becomes an issue. Many seniors can fly under the radar until a medical emergency allows healthcare workers to detect malnutrition.

There are many reasons why seniors can become food insecure. An important first step in nourishing seniors is exploring what’s at stake and the issues that can make nutrition complicated for seniors.

Malnutrition leads to other health problems for seniors. Seniors that are food insecure are at an increased risk for falls, as well as osteoporosis, dehydration and a variety of other problems.

Food insecurity isn’t only about financial factors. For many seniors, issues related to mental health, dental problems, a lack of appetite due to the loss of their sense of smell or taste can create difficulties in consuming the nutrients they need. A lack of transportation to the grocery store and the absence of a companion to share a meal are additional potential challenges for seniors.

Nourishing seniors requires specific dietary considerations. Seniors have particular dietary needs, so just supplying calories is not enough. A low motivation to eat means that every calorie should be packed with the most nutrients possible. Seniors particularly need calcium to prevent osteoporosis and a special focus on fruits and vegetables because their bodies do not absorb vitamins and minerals as easily as younger bodies do.

If you have a senior loved one, consider carefully whether they may be exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Weight loss is one area to consider, but for some seniors, financial struggles may mean that they are consuming what is cheapest, not necessarily the nutritious foods they need.

Take time to share a meal with your loved one, and make note of their eating patterns. Is it possible that a change such as vision loss or loneliness is affecting their appetite? Determine whether they may be choosing packaged, processed foods over fresh fruits and vegetables in an effort to make ends meet.

In a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a small sample of 138 elderly patients participating in a survey had a malnutrition rate of 60 percent. The study authors were surprised to see such a large percentage of patients exhibiting malnutrition, but they also know that the problem can be addressed.

The Senior Boxes provided by Second Harvest Community Food Bank is an important program designed for nourishing seniors. These programs cannot exist for the purposes of serving our senior members without the generous time, funds and food donations of the community. Consider getting involved, and join us in serving our neighbors.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/24/15, 10:00 AM


February 20, 2015

Benefitting Seniors With A Food Drive

When conducting a food drive, it is important to know what types of foods your local food pantry needs. In order to help your food drive donors understand what types of items you are looking for, consider highlighting a particular age group for the food drive.

In many cases, an important requirement of a food pantry is stocking the right items for seniors. Seniors have unique nutritional needs. They may have difficulty chewing and require softer foods, and they require a large amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Seniors also require a significant amount of liquids to stay hydrated and help them absorb the nutrients in their food.

Organizing a food drive around the needs of seniors can help stock your local food pantry with a variety of items that seniors need:

  • Lean canned protein
  • Cans of fruits and vegetables with pop-top lids to aid arthritic hands
  • Whole fruit juices
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Canned beans and lentils for fiber
  • Canned soups with vegetables and protein

Seniors have often experienced changes in their health and lifestyle that make it difficult to prioritize healthy eating. Some of the unique challenges for seniors include:

  • Changes in vision that can result in a fear of cooking, or a loss of appetite
  • Lack of a companion to make mealtimes a social part of the day
  • Loss of appetite due to a medication’s side effects
  • Changes in smell and taste can make food less appealing

These changes mean that every food choice should be carefully selected to get the most nutrition for each calorie. While there are some strategies for making food more appealing, such as adding spices and choosing a variety of colors of foods, it is critical that seniors receive foods that are rich in nutrition.

Organizing a food drive specifically for seniors is a great way to help stock your local food pantry. By doing so, you can help your food insecure neighbors. There are 4.8 million older Americans at risk for food insecurity. This equates to 8.4 percent of all seniors. One or more of those seniors may live on your street, go to your library or be a member of your church.

With some planning, you can organize a food drive that delivers quality nutrition to these neighbors. When organizing your food drive, include information in your advertising that lists the items most beneficial to seniors.

If you want to get started planning a food drive for the seniors in your area, call Second Harvest Community Food Bank. We can help you get started with the right steps to organize a food drive that will benefit the seniors of our area.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/20/15, 10:00 AM


February 17, 2015

Second Harvest Community Food Bank Helps Seniors Get the Nutrients They Need

As you age into older adulthood, you may find that many factors influence the way you eat. A loss of vision, taste or smell can make food less appealing and impact your desire to cook. Medications can affect your appetite, and if you are living alone, the lack of a companion can make what used to be a social part of the day a lonely one.

Second Harvest Community Food Bank knows the challenges that seniors face in maintaining good nutrition, and that those challenges are only increased with food insecurity. Many seniors lack the funds to buy adequate food and may come to Second Harvest Community Food Bank to fill in the gaps.

Through the Senior Boxes program, we pack 35 pounds per month of nutritious foods for our senior neighbors. Here are a few of the nutrients that we know seniors need:

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient because it helps create new red blood cells and is important for healthy nerve function. It can be a challenge for seniors to get enough B12 because they do not absorb it as easily as younger people. Second Harvest Community Food Bank includes canned meat in our Senior Boxes, and poultry and fish are rich sources of vitamin B12.

Folate or Folic Acid: Folic acid is often in the news because it is an important nutrient for pregnant women. However, it is also important for seniors because it can help prevent anemia. Avoid anemia with cereals fortified with folic acid, a product often included in Senior Boxes.

Calcium: Calcium is a nutrient that seniors need for keeping bones healthy. To get more calcium, drink milk and eat other calcium-rich foods, like broccoli and kale. Some juices are fortified with calcium, too.

Vitamin D: Include calcium in your diet, but don’t forget to pair it with vitamin D to help you absorb the calcium. Foods high in vitamin D include fortified milk and yogurt, as well as some cereals.

Potassium: Potassium is critical for keeping cells healthy, and it also has been shown to reduce high blood pressure. The richest source for potassium is fruits and vegetables. Second Harvest Community Food Bank always includes canned fruits and vegetables in Senior Boxes to help seniors get this nutrient.

Fiber: Fiber helps move your foods through the digestive tract and foods rich in fiber can also help prevent heart disease. To get enough fiber, eat whole grains, beans and vegetables.

Second Harvest Community Food Bank understands the unique nutrition needs of seniors. When we pack our Senior Boxes, we know that every calorie must pack as much nutrition as possible, so we include lots of lean protein, fortified cereals and fruits and vegetables. If you would like more information about Senior Boxes, contact us today.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/17/15, 10:00 AM


February 13, 2015

Facts About Seniors and Hunger

The baby boom generation is aging. As this group of Americans moves into older adulthood, the number of food insecure seniors will increase substantially. While the senior food insecurity rate has more than doubled in the past 15 years, it is expected to increase even more as baby boomers age.

Just like other segments of the population, seniors and hunger often occur together because of an unusual set of circumstances that lead to food insecurity. A loss of employment or a medical crisis can create problems that make it hard for seniors to purchase the food they need.

Over 4 million low-income adults are over the age of 60 and rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to get the nutrients they need. Here are a few things you may not know about seniors and hunger:

4.8  Million Older Americans Are at Risk for Hunger
Food insecure seniors in the U.S. receive an average of $119 per month in SNAP benefits. This equates to approximately 8.4 percent of all seniors.

Many Qualified Seniors Never Enroll in SNAP
Three out of five seniors that qualify for SNAP never apply, which means that 5.2 million seniors are not accessing SNAP benefits. As a person ages, they are less likely to enroll in SNAP than other age groups. There are often barriers to enrollment, such as a lack of access to transportation or technology or the stigma associated with using SNAP. Many seniors also feel discouraged by the process of getting enrolled and myths they have heard about how the program works.

Factors Affecting Food Insecurity in Seniors
Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of food insecurity among seniors are found in the South. Additionally, disability is widespread among food insecure seniors, with nearly one-third of food insecure seniors having a disability.

Age also seems to influence food insecurity, 65 percent of food insecure seniors are under the age of 69. Approximately 20 percent of seniors that are food insecure reside with a grandchild. Also, while only seven percent of Caucasian seniors are food insecure, 17 percent and 18 percent of African American and Hispanic seniors are food insecure, respectively.

SNAP Benefits the Recipients and the Community as a Whole
SNAP benefits can give a boost to your local economy as well as the healthcare system. Every dollar in SNAP results in $1.73 in local economic activity. In addition, $1 billion in SNAP benefits generates 8,900 jobs. Eating a nutritious diet allows seniors to avoid major health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

At Second Harvest Community Food Bank we are working to help nourish seniors in our community. Through programs like Senior Boxes, we are providing nutritious food resources for seniors. We also assist seniors in signing up for SNAP benefits through our Close the Gap program, in which we walk our members through the process of applying for the SNAP program. If you would like to volunteer with these programs to help our senior members, give us a call today to get started.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/13/15, 10:00 AM


February 10, 2015

Regina Overman: An Ambassador for Building Hunger-Free Communities

Regina Overman wants you to know that it is often people just like her that need to access the services of Second Harvest Community Food Bank.

Regina and her family came to Second Harvest when unemployment struck. First, Regina lost her job at an insurance company. Then her husband also lost his job in quick succession and Regina knew they needed to get help.

Regina says that it was hard to reach out to get help, but with her husband ineligible for unemployment benefits, things were tight. The Overmans also had additional family members living with them, so Regina knew that a visit to Second Harvest was an important step in keeping the family well-cared for.

This was not the first time that Regina had reached a place where she knew she needed help. As a young single mom, Regina had once before gone through a period where she sought out assistance from local food pantries. “Having limited food resources for myself was one thing,” said Regina. “But I wasn’t willing to let my young children go without the food they needed.”

When Regina reached out to Second Harvest for help, she was surprised to find that Second Harvest was the distribution source for all of the local food pantries. The scope of the distribution system impressed her.

While Regina came to get help, she stayed to help others. She began assisting with the Backpack Buddies program, and went on to help in a variety of areas. She has stocked shelves for the food pantry and served Thanksgiving dinner. Whether organizing nutritious foods or helping someone find a seat at the Thanksgiving table, Regina knows that even an hour of donated time makes a difference to our neighbors that need a little help.

Regina is now a Harvest Ambassador, working to spread the vision of Second Harvest to build hunger-free communities. Regina knows that tough circumstances can make it hard to pay the bills and also put food on the table. After all, she’s been there herself.

I hope people will see me and know that I’m the kind of person that uses a food pantry. I’m like so many people that have the skills, training and desire to make ends meet, but so often events align in a way that families just need a little help,” she says.

Regina also wants the community to know that the time spent volunteering at Second Harvest is valuable to our neighbors in need. “I suggest people spend even just an hour or two working to help food insecure families, so they’ll gain a better understanding of the need and what it takes to meet that need,” she says.

Many of our neighbors that use the services at Second Harvest are, in fact, just like you. They are like Regina, who needed temporary assistance to get back on her feet between jobs.

When Second Harvest helped Regina, however, they gained a pair of helping hands and an Ambassador for ending hunger! Learn more today about how you can get involved. 

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/10/15, 10:00 AM


February 06, 2015

Nourishing Seniors With Senior Boxes

The growing population of seniors in the United States means that organizations like ours will be continually striving to serve seniors with nourishing food resources. Some estimates project that by 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than doubling the number in 2000.

These changes will significantly impact services like Second Harvest Community Food Bank. Seniors have unique nutritional needs that are different from the rest of the population. Changes in metabolism, digestion and appetite can all impact how seniors eat, and it is critical that seniors eat nutrient-dense foods.

Second Harvest understands the needs of seniors and is well-prepared to meet the challenges of a growing senior population. Nourishing seniors is already a major initiative of Second Harvest, and the organization has an ongoing focus on learning new ways to serve senior members.

A major program of Second Harvest that is directed toward nourishing seniors is the Senior Boxes program. Funded through the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Senior Boxes provide much-needed resources to food insecure senior members across the 19 counties served by Second Harvest.

Senior Boxes are stuffed with non-perishable, nutritious foods that deliver important vitamins and minerals to seniors. Developed with the unique aspects of senior nutrition in mind, the boxes provide a healthy and delicious mix of foods and beverages.

The 35-pound box is full of nutrient-rich foods, including canned protein, juice, cereal, fruits and vegetables. Each month, Second Harvest packs 775 boxes of nutritious food for distribution across Northwest Missouri with the purpose of nourishing seniors.

These boxes have a greater impact than can be seen in the simple consumption of nutritious foods. Food insecure seniors are at risk for many negative health outcomes, including depression, heart attack, asthma and congestive heart failure.

Poverty is common among the senior population, with 10 percent of all seniors in the United States living at or below the federal poverty line. For many seniors, living below the poverty line is a result of the high cost of medical care. Many seniors are forced to choose between receiving adequate medical care and purchasing groceries.

Across the United States, of the 47 percent of households that were food insecure and had at least one senior, there was also at least one family member that was diabetic. Caring for a family member with diabetes can make it difficult for a low-income family to purchase the foods they need. As a result, these families often are forced to make a difficult decision between paying for food and paying for insulin or other medical care.

At Second Harvest, we prioritize our goal of nourishing seniors by providing Senior Boxes that are packed with foods that recognize the unique nutritional needs of our members.

If you would like to join our mission to build hunger-free communities, please consider making a donation of time, food or money to serve Senior Boxes at Second Harvest. When we all commit to nourishing seniors, we provide a foundation of good health for our neighbors.

Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/06/15, 10:00 AM


February 03, 2015

Second Harvest Community Food Bank Provides Balanced Nutrition to Seniors

At Second Harvest Community Food Bank, we provide assistance to food insecure families and individuals in the communities we serve across 19 counties. There are many families with children that come to Second Harvest for help, but approximately 14 percent of our members are seniors.

When considering how to best serve seniors, it is important to think about the unique factors that can affect senior nutrition. Here are a few changes that can impact seniors’ health:

Metabolism: Your metabolism generally slows as you age, but it can be more pronounced if you are not getting the exercise you need to burn excess calories. Due to your slowing metabolism, you should be sure that your foods are as nutrient-rich as possible. When Second Harvest Community Food Bank packs Senior Boxes for our senior members, we fill them with nutrient-dense foods.

Digestion: Your body has less of the fluids it needs to process digestion, making it more difficult for you to absorb nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamin B6.

Appetite: Medications can often impact senior appetites. Changes in vision can even curb your appetite, so consider filling your plate with brightly-colored vegetables or other colorful foods. Loneliness and other emotional factors can also play a role, so consider how that might be impacting your desire to eat.

Second Harvest Community Food Bank strives to provide nutritious foods for seniors. When choosing items for your weekly menu, there are several tips to keep in mind for a nutritious, balanced diet:

Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. It’s tempting to fill up on grains and meats. However, fruits and vegetables are a good foundation because they are nutrient-dense without being calorie-dense. By learning a few techniques like roasting and sautéing, you can make delicious fruit and vegetable dishes.  

Make at least half of your grains whole-grain. This is another area in which you should consider the nutrients gained in the number of calories consumed. Whole-grain breads, pasta and crackers tend to be high in fiber and other nutrients. When you eat breads and pasta that are not whole-grain, you may be getting a quick burst of energy, but experience little gain in nutrients.

Drink water. To fuel your digestive tract and keep it running smoothly, make water your drink of choice. Water and other non-caffeinated drinks keep you well-hydrated, cooling your body and keeping your organs well-functioning.

Get creative with protein. The purchase of meat can take up a lot of your grocery budget, so it may be helpful to think about other forms of protein. Beans, cheese and nuts are all good sources of protein. Consider designating a “Meatless Monday” or similar meat-free times in the week to give yourself a challenge to try other types of protein. 

At Second Harvest Community Food Bank, we understand the nutrition challenges that our senior members have. We pack our Senior Boxes with food products that best serve our seniors and help them maintain a healthy, balanced diet.


Posted by Gayle Stowers - 02/03/15, 10:00 AM