In Oregon, 7.25 percent of those over 50 are considered at risk of hunger, and only 22 percent of low-income residents over 60 are enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. Groups that try to enroll older people in SNAP say they find it difficult to overcome negative perceptions associated with government assistance.
To highlight the problem of hunger among older people head on, AARP, the AARP Foundation and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon have collaborated on a national Drive to End Hunger.
"It's all about raising awareness," said Bandana Shrestha, director of community engagement for AARP Oregon. "There are many reasons why senior hunger is hidden, and one of the reasons is the stigma" of asking for and accepting help.
AARP Oregon has encouraged its members across the state to volunteer at local food banks. Plans are also under way for a winter "night at the movies" event to benefit local food banks across the state.
Shrestha urged members to get involved by joining local Community Action Teams, volunteer groups that work on various issues, including hunger, affecting those 50-plus.
People interested in joining a team should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-554-5360 toll-free. Others who prefer to start their own project are encouraged to visit AARP's volunteer website. There they can find information on volunteering and downloadable tool kits.
"If more people are involved in addressing the issue, it means more people involved in solving the problem," Shrestha said.
Andrew Tuttle is a writer living in Tualatin, Ore.