With another summer coming to a close, AARP Maine is acutely aware that the winter months pose increased challenges for too many Maine seniors.
A recent report from AARP Foundation, “Food Insecurity Among Older Adults”, reveals that hunger among older Americans has spiked nearly 80 percent since 2001. This report is the first to examine hunger risk specifically among people age 50-59, providing a more comprehensive picture of the growing problem of hunger in America.
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Of the 50 million Americans presently at risk of hunger, 9 million are 50 and older. Sadly, here in Maine our numbers are staggering. In each category measured in the report, Maine is at or near the top in terms of food insecurity for all the New England states and, in many cases, the Northeast region as a whole.
Food insecurity can lead to serious health consequences for older adults. The study indicates that individuals between the ages of 50 and 60 who go hungry are almost twice as likely to be diabetic, are over five times more likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to be in only poor or fair health.
AARP is dedicated to facing this issue and finding solutions that make sense. With compassion and collaboration, we can solve this problem. AARP is one of the founding members of the Maine Hunger Initiative (MHI). The MHI was established to ensure that healthy food is accessible to vulnerable populations. MHI is a unique collaboration of the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Muskie School of Public Service, Preble Street and AARP Maine.
Our six organizations formed this statewide coalition because Maine is one of only a few states without a cohesive effort focused on developing policies to end hunger. Together we hope to fill the void by supporting public policies aimed at reducing food insecurity, by fully utilizing current federal, state and local food programs and resources, and by promoting sustainable economic and agricultural policies that enhance food access.
Demographically, as the number of Americans over 45 grows, and those under 18 contracts, Maine holds the distinction of being the oldest state in the nation. At AARP we see this as a unique challenge filled with possibilities. We look forward to working with our state legislators to craft public policies that will make meaningful changes to improve the lives of all Mainers.