Nearly 9 million Americans 50 and older face the risk of hunger, according to new research commissioned by AARP Foundation. The report, produced by James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Craig Gundersen of the University found more than nine percent of older Americans were at risk of hunger in 2009 – a 79 percent increase since 2001.
The report, “Food Insecurity among Older Adults,” is the first of its kind to examine this issue among people age 50 to 59 – the youngest of the baby boomers. Because they are typically too young for Social Security and Medicare and too old to qualify for programs designed for families with children, this age group can be hit particularly hard in bad economic times. In 2009, 4.9 million 50- to 59-year-olds were at risk of hunger, representing a staggering 38 percent increase over 2007.
“For the first time, we have a fuller picture of hunger risk among all Americans 50-plus,” said AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins. “But sadly, it’s far more bleak than before. The recession has taken an especially large toll on older people – especially those in the middle class.” Jenkins noted that between 2007 and 2009 the most dramatic increase in food insecurity was among those with annual incomes above twice the poverty line. [The 2011 federal poverty guideline is $10,890 for a single person and $22,350 for a family of four.]
She announced the new research Aug. 30, 2011, at the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) annual conference in Chicago. The AARP Foundation report builds on earlier research commissioned by MOWAA to examine hunger among people 60 and older. AARP Foundation is working with hunger relief organizations like MOWAA and Feeding America to combat the growing problem of hunger among older Americans.