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Why is this happening?

One of the researchers, Cindy Leung, explains why seniors experience heightened food insecurity in a Washington Times interview. Although food prices are soaring for everyone right now, the assistant professor of public health nutrition at Harvard says that it’s a particularly difficult time for lower-income seniors, many of whom often also have additional medical costs to pay for.

The issue, according to the study, affects "all racial and ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups." Although food insecurity levels were significantly higher among Black and Hispanic families, chronic food insecurity for white families rose to 4.5% between 2015 and 2019 (up from 0.8%).

Food inflation may not have increased from January to February of this year, but it did increase 2.2% from February 2023, according to the most recent consumer price index numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For a senior whose Social Security check’s cost-of-living adjustment only went up 3.2% this year, that’s not a huge help when they need to pay not just for food, but for housing and medical necessities.

Many seniors are living off Social Security alone. In 2020, roughly half of the unhoused population are 50 and over — a significant increase since the early 90s, when only 11% of homeless people were this age, according to research in the American Society on Aging’s journal, Generations.

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Expected to get worse

In 2021, the American Society on Aging’s research says that 5.5 million older adults experienced food insecurity. By 2050, it’s estimated to surge to more than 7 million older adults.

However, researchers provide some solutions that could prevent this from happening. They believe that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the best way to create a more food-secure population of older adults.

SNAP provides a monthly benefit to low-income families and individuals. The most recent numbers from the USDA say that 5.3 million households with older adults use SNAP. But AARP has done research to suggest there are many more eligible seniors out there who aren’t taking advantage of the benefit.

The researchers add that SNAP could be improved, particularly in how much money it provides every month to its recipients. There was a pandemic increase in SNAP benefits, but it ended in March 2023. SNAP benefits were cut by $95 to $250 a month, according to CBS News.

Researchers claim that this pandemic increase is a good experiment to see how SNAP helps alleviate food insecurity. CBS reports that the pandemic SNAP increase kept 4.2 million Americans out of poverty. Perhaps it can also help seniors.


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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex


Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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