Hunger Is Not a Disease

Writing this Blog Post was Risky

Writing this blog post was risky.  In the early days I worried about peoples’ opinions.  I wrote my first blog entries with skeptics in mind.  On some level it was important to me for pantry deniers to understand that there are, indeed, hungry people around us

One day I saw clearly  that some people aren’t going to like me or my work.   Nor are they going to believe what I write, no matter what I say.  Once I realized that truth, I knew I’d been wasting  energy on other people’s opinions.

I’m no longer interested in convincing anyone about what it means to go to bed hungry.

I’m okay with people saying anything about me because I know the chapters I write are true.  The words I write make a difference in peoples’ lives.

This blog is about people creating better lives for themselves while not having enough to eat and lacking proper healthcare, housing.

This blog is about healing and creating new opportunities in one’s life.  This blog is about people changing their lives – against all odds.

While I tell this story, I know some people  won’t believe a word.  It’s okay.  I have my story and they have their story.

Food and sex and money are three words and issues more concerned with a person’s core beliefs, emotions, and spiritual attitudes than anything else.

These three words offer rules for everyone.  We each have core beliefs around them  with opinions about what is okay and what isn’t okay.  We have attitudes about food, sex, and money based on what we were taught by family members and peers when we were children.  We live our lives based on those experiences.  Reduced to their lowest common denominator, these words – food, sex, and money – are the same.  They touch  core beliefs in ways going straight to the heart and soul.

The food pantry was all about food and money.  The sex part was limited, but still there.  Sex happened in the pantry hallway line when a shopper suffering with mental illness, a handsome young man who lived in another world, masturbated in the food line.

Our attitudes, opinions, feelings about feeding hungry people are or are not based on facts, statistics, or reality.  Nor will facts, statistics, information, change  attitudes.

Finally, we all have beliefs about who it’s okay to feed and who it’s not okay to feed.  My beliefs are based on life experiences, facts, statistics.  Their beliefs are based on the same.  I may have taken classes, gone to therapy.  And, they may have also.

Their reality about what is okay and my reality about what is okay differ.

In the food pantry hallway, we all looked at the same people and saw different things.  This situation is proof positive we each create our own reality about hungry people.  Nothing changes either reality.  We each see hungry people through lenses shaped by separate life experiences.  Hungry people don’t live in two realities.

As the lines got longer, we looked at people in the line.  I saw hungry people and they didn’t.  I interacted with people weekly who dumpster-dived to feed themselves as well as their children, parents, housemates.  Occasionally I read articles about the ethics of dumpster diving.  I didn’t think we could explore the ethics of allowing people go hungry because they couldn’t make enough money at their jobs to buy the food they needed to live and work.

People coming to a food pantry can take a three-day-supply of food home each week.  The other four days, they’re on their own.  That means they can buy more food if they have a SNAP card and if they can get to a store selling food.  If they don’t have the money or a SNAP card, they get creative or go hungry.  This involves panhandleing, borrowing money or food from friends, relatives, neighbors.  They can steal, dumpster-dive, drop in at someone’s house at mealtime, and skip meals.

“Thurman is out of control over at the food pantry” described the local vicar because of the number of people shopping at the pantry and the amount of food they took home.

Thank you for reading this blog post.  Please refer it to your favorite social media network.

Thurman Greco

Are You Working On or Off?

A fairly common question I heard in the pantry line: “Are you working on or off?”

The first time I heard this question, I was confused. What did it mean? Actually, it referred to whether or not the person was paid in cash under the table or was paid money with withholding taken out.

Often the answer was something like: “I’ve got two days over at the food store and three days at Mrs. O……’s where I help her with her house and her office. I’m looking for a few more hours but it’s not happening.”

What this question asked was how many hours a person worked on the books and how many hours off the books. Not only was this practice illegal but it robbed workers of any benefit accrual and the opportunity to pay taxes.

Minimum wage paychecks simply don’t last a week. Individuals, families, entire households even can be employed and still live in poverty. My experience in the pantry was that more people in the pantry shopping line are employed than not.

I used to think of people as being employed or unemployed.

As I gained experience with the situation, I added another label: underemployed. So, rather than thinking in terms of employed or unemployed, I thought of hungry people in the line as being employed or underemployed.

I still see unemployed people but I realized many people aren’t paid a living wage.

I see shoppers where each person in the household works more than one job. The hope, dream, goal for many is simply to work enough hours and make enough money that a person can take a day off occasionally and have enough money to eat the following day.

People holding down more than one job often had trouble finding time to get to the Department of Social Services office to apply for SNAP (food stamps), although they might have qualified for the benefits.

Without a secure community safety net for the poor and destitute in our country, pantry volunteers needed to feed groceries weekly to families and households without money after they paid for rent and transportation to get to work.

Since the ’90s, many states have been “hell bent to Harry” to get people to work…no matter what. Welfare is no longer on the table.
A tip: Some people don’t realize our nation hasn’t offered much in the way of welfare in a long, long time. In polite conversation, I heard a statement: “That person shouldn’t be in your line. Her son has a job and she has a car.” I find it amazing that people in this country have been and continue to be comfortable denying assistance to the needy and destitute families while offering tax breaks to the wealthy.

My question was this: “How do people cope?”

Work first is not always a good option. I regularly saw pantry shoppers with family members who would be institutionalized if they weren’t being cared for by family. The institution is always the more expensive option.

The problem was that the family had nothing. So, while Helen or Sue or Fred was caring for the ill/disabled person, s/he wasn’t able to work.

Employment opportunities are a large part of the problem. People find themselves down and out in places with few job opportunities. Young people graduated from high school or college and can’t find a job anywhere.
Every economic downturn erases job opportunities. When the economy finally recovers, many jobs don’t return. Each recovery creates a class of citizens permanently living in the poverty of unemployment, underemployment, temporary employment, and day labor. Part time employment and being “on call” is a way of life.

The new group created after the downturn of 2008 had its own label: The Struggling Class.

Education costs are a factor. Fewer and fewer people can afford college or trade school. Some are afraid of the college loans they might not be able to pay off. One young woman in our food pantry line worked sixty hours weekly in low wage jobs to repay her college loan.

A fundamental attitude adjustment helped us realize food stamps, food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters are no longer emergency concepts. They are the new way of life in the 21st century.

BEN

“I’m finished!” he blurted out. ” They fired me today!” I’ll never be able to get another job again. I’m too old!” Frightened reality covered his face when he entered the pantry for the first time. I didn’t say a word. I let him shout. He didn’t look or act as if he was going to hurt anyone and I felt he needed to release his anger.

I wanted his life to be easier than it was but what I wanted for him or any other shopper was nothing more than wishful thinking. There was little to nothing I could do. And, truthfully, I was helpless to do anything for him beyond offering a three-day-supply of food.

Every week after the first visit, he entered the pantry, shopped, and never made a sound. The mask of his face never changed.

Once the hair goes grey, it’s hard to compete in the market place. In a down economy, employers hire the younger applicants believing they’ll work harder for less money.

I hoped his unemployment would hold out until he could figure out how to get something more.

We all just left him alone. The pantry space was so small. It took him a year to calm down.

All we had was delicious, nutritious, food with a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits. I relied on the food to make up for what we didn’t have.

I saw him recently – calm, maybe at peace with his situation. He lives in his truck, semi-homeless I suppose. He has places to bathe and sleep when he’s in Woodstock.

Woodstock attracts musicians. He’s one of those considered talented, this man. He’s found places to play around the area and he’s looking okay. What more can we all ask for anyway?

Thurman Greco

Thank you for reading this blog post. Please refer it to your favorite social media network.

Thurman

A new book is coming soon! Please be on the lookout for Miracles!

Thanks again!


I Need a Gun – “Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” – Hunger is not a Disease

“How much is an application for a gun permit?” I was the only cotton topped little old lady in the line at the Golden Hill government office in Kingston.
The counter person, an overweight man in his fifties, could hardly contain his laughter as he handed me the gun permit application. “That’ll be $5.00 please, miss.”
After handing him the money, I started to walk away. Then, turning back to him, I said pleasantly, “Will you sell me three more applications, please? A couple of the girls in my senior yoga class asked me to get applications for them, too.”
Pulling out $15.00 more, I put the money on the counter. The man gave me three more gun applications and I walked away. I had no idea who was going to receive them and I didn’t attend any senior yoga class but I remembered the old “Alice’s Restaurant” song about three people doing something and being part of a movement.

Things in the pantry were negative and confrontational since the first day I drove up with fresh produce for the hungry people shopping in the pantry. In the beginning, I tried to hide things and overlook the situation. Frankly, I hoped the negativity would just go away. And, of course, I was mistaken. Situations like that don’t just evaporate. People don’t just change. And now, I was beginning to tire of the whole situation. I’d been living with fear for years and was feeling like it was time to try to fix things.
Maybe a gun will help, I thought.
When I got home, Barry was sitting on the sofa, surrounded by his cats, Fizzle and Carrots, as he read his latest thriller.
“Hi, honey. How’s your day going?” Without looking up, he took a few grapes from a large fruit filled bowl on a table by the sofa.
“Here’s the application for the gun permit I just got. I want you to teach me to shoot a gun.”
“What!?”
“You can do it. You didn’t spend all those years sneaking off to the CIA without knowing how to use a gun. They even gave you a medal or something. For all I know, you’re a damn bazooka expert. Maybe I want to learn that, too!”
“You can’t do that! You might shoot one of the Chihuahuas.”
“Well, I’m tired of asking pantry volunteers to be bodyguards. It’s not safe when I’m working after hours at the pantry. And, I’m not one bit afraid of the shoppers.”
“Listen, I know your job is difficult. Not even a Marine drill sergeant would do what you’re doing. But, I don’t know about a gun.”
“That Mag-Lite I bought a while back just isn’t what I need. A gun is more powerful and I’ve lived with them my whole life. My grandmother kept a rifle in her bathroom.”
“T.G. you’re just not the gun type. I’ll teach you to use a knife. A good knife won’t cost as much as a gun and you won’t need a permit. You won’t need to buy bullets. There’s nothing to clean unless you stab someone. It’ll be easier to use and carry. I’ll give you some lessons. Nobody will ever know. It’ll be our secret. Leash up the Chihuahuas. We’re going to Warren Cutlery in Rhineback.”

And so he did. He took me to Warren Cutlery where there was a generous selection of knives. We went into the knife room which included stock for kitchens as well as other knives not designed to slice and chop onions. I stood in front of the case. “Which knife are you interested in?” The clerk spoke to me as though showing weapons to a cotton topped old lady was the most boring thing he did all day. And, maybe it was.
“I’d like to see the one over there with the four-inch blade, please.” I held it in my hand and then asked to see several more on display in the case. Barry walked over to the case, stood beside me, and saw the knife I held in my hand.
“That knife is too big and too heavy.” he said, pointing to a smaller model. “You need something you can carry in your purse and you need something you can open rapidly. If you’re too slow, your attacker will have you down before you get it open.”
So, I chose a smaller, lighter model that happened to be on sale.
Barry paid the bill, and off we went.
He did just what he said he would. He taught me how to open a knife quickly but never bothered teaching me to close it.
And, he was correct. A knife is quiet. It weighs less than a gun. There’s no need for a permit. The Chihuahuas won’t get shot. And, unless I go through a metal detector before I take it out of my purse, no one has a clue.
Before it was over, he bought me a second knife which I kept open on the pantry counter next to the large Mag-Lite, ostensibly to open the cardboard boxes.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

Thank you for reading this story. It is, for now, the first chapter in “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles.”

Please share this post with your favorite social media network.

Thank You, Supporters, For All You Gave

The Mowers Meadow Flea Market is closed for the year and I want to thank you, every one, for all you gave and all you will continue to give for those less fortunate. I use the phrase “all those less” because I know you are givers and givers give and give. You make the world go around. Without you and your generous spirit, our planet would be a much different place.

With every blouse, book, and toy you gave, with every hour you spent finding the things to give, with every story you shared and with every social media post you “liked” you brought us all one step closer to living in a better world.

With every donation you stuffed in the donation jar, with every book you bought and every shirt, coat, handbag, pair of shoes you took away, you brought us to an anonymous donation I made – twice.

Working together, made a difference in someone’s life. We came one step closer to ending hunger for those in need.

For that, I am truly, deeply, profoundly grateful.

I look forward to seeing you in the spring!

Thank you

Again

A Food Pantry Thanksgiving Day Blessing of Opportunity

I offer blessings for the volunteers in the food pantry and for everyone I see shopping each week.

The food available in the pantry reminds me that we all live in the abundance of this time and place.

I am thankful for the clothes on my back, for my health.

And, I’m thankful for the opportunity to celebrate this historic day with people of all languages and faiths.

I’m honored to live in this great country whose landscape is vast and whose population come from the world over.

This Thanksgiving Day is a time to welcome the coming new year with thoughts and prayers of hope and new beginnings for the coming year.

May the energy of this special day gather new energy for peace.

Finally, I’m grateful to be here, to be connected to this pantry. I appreciate the support I’ve received from the people I’ve come to know here.

I look forward to the blessings which I feel will be coming my way in the future.

I’m hopeful about the opportunities I see coming my way in the near future as 2019 becomes a reality.

Thank you for reading this article. Please refer it to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco
Woodstock

10 Things You Can Do For Hungry People Now

DONATE FOOD TO A FOOD PANTRY
When you purchase groceries, buy a few extra jars or cans of food and take them to your neighborhood food pantry.
Peanut butter is my favorite choice. It’s shelf stable so needs no refrigeration. That makes it good for homeless people. It doesn’t spoil quickly so it can be used by a household with one or ten people. It doesn’t require a lot of chewing so it’s good for a person with no teeth. In short, peanut butter is a perfect food choice for a food pantry.
However, if you would rather choose another item, go with whatever you want to give. Whatever you choose, it will be selected by someone shopping in the pantry.

CLEAN OUT YOUR KITCHEN CABINETS
Give the unused items to your local food pantry.

HOST A FOOD DRIVE
Invite your friends and neighbors to help you collect food for your local food pantry.

DONATE CLEAN EGG CARTONS AND REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS TO YOUR FOOD PANTRY.
Food pantries are always in need of shopping bags and egg cartons. Eggs coming to a food pantry usually come in cases – without the cartons.
Shopping bags are not usually found on food pantry shopping lists.

CLEAN OUT THAT CLOSET!
Take your gently used clothing and bedding to a pantry or soup kitchen for distribution. I recently learned that the clothing item most needed in shelters is socks.
I also learned that women’s shelters are always in need of bras.
In the Albany, New York, area, you can send gently used or new women’s bras to:
YWCA – Greater Capitol Region
Brava
21 First Street
Troy, New York 12180

CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Invite people to a party and ask them to give donations to a food pantry instead of a gift.

GIVE A LITTLE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
Make a regular donation to a food pantry. This translates to sending a check or gas card every month or quarter.

CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PERSONS OF INFLUENCE.
Motivate them to make ending hunger and homelessness a priority. Encourage them to support fair wages and benefits for workers.

READ A BOOK.
“Take This Bread” by Sara Miles, “Under the Overpass” by Mike Yankoski, “I am Your Neighbor” by David R. Brown and Roger Wright, and “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” by Thurman Greco are four books which tell revealing stories about hungry people in America.

START A SCHOOL BACKPACK PROGRAM.
Backpack programs send food home on Friday afternoons to households where children would not otherwise eat over the weekend without the donated foods.

Thanks for reading this article! Please refer it to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock

.

9 Things You Can Do to Cut Out the Unhealthy Salt in Your Life So You Can Be Healthier

 

If being involved in a pantry does nothing else, it teaches us to be aware of the impact that salt has on our health.  Getting too much salt, and getting the wrong salt, are two important things we need to learn about in order to be healthier.

An important ingredient in fast food is salt.  Many canned soups we eat at home have unrealistically high amounts of salt.  Salt is everywhere!

1.  ADD CELERY TO YOUR MEALS WHENEVER YOU CAN.  Sprinkle chopped celery on salads, soup, cooked vegetables, cooked meats.  Be generous.  Celery  offers a crunch, and has potassium, something we all need.  If you can get enough celery at the pantry, stuff it with peanut butter for a healthy meal or snack.  If you suffer with hypertension, eat generous amounts of celery every day.

2.  WHEN YOU MAKE SALADS WITH  ONIONS, AND RADISHES, YOU WON’T MISS THE SALT AT ALL.

3.  BE GENEROUS WITH PEPPER AND HERBS.

4.  GO FOR EDIBLE FLOWERS.  Experiment with herbs and flowrs on your salads:  chives, dandelions, garlic, mint, nasturtiums, onions, violets.

5.  CHOPPED FRESH GREEN BEANS ARE GOOD TASTE TREATS ON SOUPS, SALADS, VEGETABLES.

6.  LOW SODIUM CANNED BEANS SUCH AS PINTOS, CHICKPEAS, BLACK, KIDNEY MAKE GOOD ADDITIONS TO SALADS, SOUPS, VEGETABLES.

7.  MAKE YOUR OWN CROUTONS.  Your homemade variety will be just as tasty if you rub the bread with garlic before preparation and then sprinkle them with herbs.

8.  MAKE YOUR OWN SOUP.  The best soups come without a label.  What you prepare at home can have less fat, salt, sugar, MSG and preservatives.  Substitute herbs.

9.  SALAD DRESSING YOU MAKE AT HOME CAN BE MORE FLAVORFUL IF YOU CAN USE UNREFINED OILS.  That way, you’ll get healthy fats, vitamins, and distinctive flavors.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Please share this article with your preferred social media network.

There will be more posts in the future about healthy eating and at least one will feature Real Salt, which I recommend.  Hope you find them both fun and interesting.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

An Important Article from Aging in Place

THE FACTS BEHIND SENIOR HUNGER

Seniors Being Hungry is a Nationwide Epidemic

Nearly one in every six seniors in America faces the threat of hunger and not being properly nourished. This applies to those who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from and those who don’t have access to the healthiest possible food options. The issue is severe enough that the AARP reports that seniors face a healthcare bill of more than $130 billion every year due to medical issues stemming from senior hunger.

Senior hunger is an expansive issue that requires an understanding of exactly what constitutes a senior being “hungry,” the issues that stem from senior hunger, and how seniors who are hungry can be helped.

To understand the concept of seniors being hungry, you must understand what it means to be “food insecure.” When you are food insecure, it means that there is “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” as defined by a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Essentially, it means that you aren’t receiving and/or don’t have access to the necessary foods and nutrients to help sustain your life.

The concept of being “hungry” is a state-of-mind, meaning that there is a physical aspect to the lack of food. Attending to an area where people are hungry and basically starving is a much more immediate and severe problem to solve. Being food insecure, on the other hand, helps include people who may have enough food and don’t technically live consistently in hunger, but the food they are eating—usually in large amounts—isn’t up to nutritional and dietary standards.

In 2006, the USDA broke down food insecurity into two categories to help determine how food insecure someone is:

13%

Of Households In America Are Food Insecure

Low Food Security

While there may not be an overall reduction in how much food someone is intaking, there may be a lower quality and variety of your diet. For instance, there may be reduced amounts of fresh vegetables and meats, but that may be replaced with fast food. In this category, people don’t miss many meals, but the type of meals that are being eaten diminish in quality.

Very Low Food Security

When you have very low food security, your health and ability to correct it with healthy food is in a dire situation. To be assigned this categorization, the USDA says there must be “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake,” meaning you’re often missing meals and not eating enough to survive.

The Numbers Behind Senior Hunger

In 2017, there are just more than 49 million Americans age 65 and over, and about 8 million of them can be considered facing the threat of hunger.

Not only is senior hunger such a large issue now, the threat of it persisting as a problem into the future is high because of the high rate of seniors expected to exist. As seniors lost million dollars in the stock market through the 2007 economic recession, their wealth- including retirement funds, insurance payouts, and pension checks – plummeted. This increased the rate at which seniors spent money on lesser quality food in favor of other things like insurance.

In 2014, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) reported the following facts:

16%

Of seniors “face the threat of hunger,” meaning they’re at some level of food insecurity

65%

Increase in hunger among the senior populations from 2007 to 2014, which is credited partially to the economic recession that started in 2007

55,000,000

Seniors are expected to be in America by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

80,000,000

Seniors are expected to take up 20% of the population by 2050

Are Some Seniors More Affected than Others?

An even deeper issue with senior hunger, aside from how many seniors it affects, is how disproportionately the food insecurity is spread out amongst race, class levels, and geographic location. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that contribute to how certain seniors are more affected than the others.

CLASS

NFESH performed a deep analysis of the level of food insecurity among seniors in 2008. Within the report is the role seniors’ closeness to the poverty line plays in how food insecure they are, whether they are marginally food insecure, food insecure, or very low food secure. For example, nearly 80 percent of seniors “below 50 percent of the poverty line,” which in 2013 was $15,510 for a two-person household, were at some level of food insecurity.

While food insecurity rates dropped closer to and above the poverty line, the report clarifies that “hunger cuts across the income spectrum.” More than 50 percent of seniors who are at-risk of being food insecure live above the poverty line.

Craig Gundersen, a professor at the University of Illinois and food security expert, says that the main areas where food insecurity is increasing the most is among Americans making less than $30,000 per year and those between the ages of 60 and 69.

Gundersen blames the increase in food insecurity rates to many things, but primarily there was a decrease in wages and overall net worth after the recession in the late 2000s. Many seniors lost mass amounts of money when the stock markets crashed, and as they’re entering retirement, they didn’t have the time to recover. “Most of them can’t rely on Social Security income, and can’t receive Medicare until they are 65,” Gundersen said.

A Census Bureau report from 2011 notes that about 15 percent of seniors (about one in six) live in poverty, based on a “supplemental poverty measure” that adjusts the poverty level to modern day living expenses. This is important because you are more likely to develop an illness like cancer or heart disease—both often linked to your overall health— when you live in poverty.

50%

Of Seniors Who are At-Risk of Being Food Insecure Live Above the Poverty Line

Of the Population Without a Car in Many Southern Counties Don’t Have a Supermarket Within a Mile

RACE

Another issue with senior hunger—and food insecurity in general—is how much race affects the likelihood that you are food insecure. And this is directly tied to class level, as minorities often live in lower income brackets. While the AARP points out that, as you age, the rate of food insecurity raises among all races and ethnicities, there are still those who experience food insecurity at much higher rates.

The aforementioned 2008 report of food insecurity found that African-American seniors were far more likely to have some sort of level of food insecurity than white seniors (almost 50 percent compared to 16 percent) and that Hispanics were more likely to live at some level of food insecurity than non-Hispanics (40 percent compared to 17 percent).

“African-American households are two to two-and-a-half times as likely to be in one of the three categories as the typical senior household,” the report clarified, also noting that Hispanics face similar odds. It’s also more likely in both these minority groups for someone to be food insecure if they are widowed or divorced and live alone.

FOOD DESERTS

As mentioned, there are also certain parts of the country that are more likely to be food insecure than others. Areas where access for fresh produce and food is the most limited are known as “food deserts.” Not only does this include the absence of fresh food, but food deserts also include areas where access to food is inhibited because of the lack of grocery stores or the lack of transportation to get to one.

Food deserts often fall in poorer areas of the country, which further fuels the food insecurity levels due to class.

All but one of the top 10 states for food insecurity are in the South or Midwest. These states match a map of the United States that shows the high concentrations of food deserts. In many of the states with high levels of food insecurity, there are also counties with larger concentrations of areas where there is no supermarket within a mile of people who don’t have a car. For instance, in many counties in Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana, more than 10 percent of the population without a car doesn’t have a supermarket within a mile.

This severely affects an individual’s health. Those who lived more than 1.75 miles from a grocery store actually turned out to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those who lived closer to one, a 2006 study found.

According to the USDA, the states with the highest levels of food insecurity (rates between 20 percent and 30 percent) among elders 60 and older are:

South Carolina
Alabama
Mississippi
New Mexico
Maine
Louisiana
Texas
Arkansas
Missouri
Kansas

The Challenges that Can Cause Senior Hunger

As we’ve seen, there are socioeconomic reasons why a senior may be food insecure, and we just looked at some of the main ones. But there are plenty of other factors that may cause someone to not get the proper food they need to maintain their health:

LIVING ALONE

According to a 2012 report, nearly half of the senior households that experienced food insecurity were those where a senior was living alone. There are many things that living alone can do to spur food insecurity, such as not having someone else to help get food from the store if you’re lacking mobility and cook it for you. Living alone also factors into depression and the development of dementia, both of which have side effects of the suppression of hunger. The NFESH study backs this up as well, noting that “those living alone are twice as likely to experience hunger compared to married seniors.”

AGE

Seniors aged below 70 are more likely to experience bouts of food security than those aged 70 and up. The NFESH report showed that as seniors aged, they were less likely to be any level of food insecure, with those under 70 (20 percent) living at some level of food insecurity than those over 80 (14 percent). This can be attributed to many factors, such as the amount of money received from government programs like Medicare (which help alleviate medical costs so more money can be spent on food) and whether or not they live in an assisted living facility, which may help with more consistent eating habits.

EDUCATION LEVEL

Those with a high school degree or no high school degree at all are more likely to experience some sort of food security than those with a college degree. There is a stark drop off of food insecurity levels with someone who at least has some college education. This can be tied to getting paid higher wages at jobs, which then translates to the potential of having more money saved up when you’re older.

Overall, senior women are slightly more likely to be food insecure than men, but the rates are not vast enough to be a determining factor in the likelihood of food insecurity. All of these factors, though—from the big ones like geographic location and race to the smaller ones like age—play into seniors’ overall health, a detrimental factor to how long seniors will live.

Illnesses Caused by Malnourishment

As seniors become more food insecure, they also become more likely to develop diseases and illness that could cut their life short. Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on hunger issues across the country, took a look at various illness that were more likely to occur when seniors lived with food insecurity. We’ll dive into those illness—along with a couple more—that can stem from eating poor food and eating at an infrequent rate.

Depression

According to a 2017 report from Feeding America, food-insecure seniors are 60 percent more likely to suffer from depression than food-secure seniors. Another study from the AARP determined that food insecure people were nearly three times more likely to suffer from depression.

Some of the leading causes of depression include having conflicts in your interpersonal relationships and life-altering events that completely shift your life, typically trending negative. The inability to provide consistent healthy food for yourself or your family can lead to depression. This is because though you may have once lived food secure, you are constantly worrying about making sure you’re going to have some sort of food on your plate for your next meal. Years of worrying about your next meal can take a toll and put you in a constant depressive mood. If you do suffer from depression, a side effect is a suppressed hunger, and that can further worsen your health—it’s a vicious cycle.

Heart Disease

There are many negative effects food insecurity has on the heart, both from a level of stress and other physiological aspects. The Feeding America study found that seniors who suffer from food insecurity were 40 percent more likely to experience congestive heart failure, where the heart ceases pumping blood around the body at a necessary pace. This is a direct result of the quality of food eaten among food-insecure seniors and how lacking the necessary nutrient—especially when older—can play a role in exacerbating dire health issues.

The inconsistency at which food-insecure seniors eat also fuels stress levels that have negative effects on the heart as they’re consistently worrying about their next meal. The American Heart Association notes that prolonged stress can increase your risk of high blood pressure, overeating, and the lack of physical activity—all leading causes of heart disease. So just as the type of food you’re eating can have physical effects, food insecurity can also have psychological and physiological effects because of the situation at hand.

But these heart issues don’t start once you’re older. The Center for Disease Control conducted a 10-year study on 30 to 59 year olds and the relationship between their levels of food security and their heart. The study found that those with very low food security were far more likely to develop a cardiovascular disease that those who were at least marginally food secure. This shows that health problems associated with food insecurity, while prevalent in seniors, can begin with prolonged exposure to food insecurity.

Diabetes

The overall quality of food—and how inconsistently it’s eaten—plays a role in developing type 2 diabetes in seniors.

A 2012 study, which analyzed the role food insecurity plays in cardiometabolic disease (a disease that increases the risk of diabetes), points out that some aspects of food insecurity include binge eating food when it becomes available and eating energy-dense food, which can put an overall unhealthy strain on the heart and contribute to becoming diabetic. In 2013 and 2014 alone, a separate study found that food-insecure seniors were nearly twice as likely to be diabetic than food-secure seniors. Overall, it concluded that food-insecure seniors were 65 percent more likely to be diabetic.

Not only does food insecurity increase the risk of diabetes, it’s also difficult for a diabetic person to afford a diet that supports diabetes when they are food insecure. When concluding that food insecurity is an independent risk factor in developing diabetes, the study said:

“This risk may be partially attributable to increased difficulty following a diabetes-appropriate diet and increased emotional distress regarding capacity for successful diabetes self-management.”

Limited Activities of Daily Living

Food insecurity among seniors generally affects how they can live their day-to-day lives. Sidney Katz, a physician from the mid-1900s, developed the concept of Activities for Daily Living (ADLs) that helps determine how functional an elderly person is and whether or not they are able to support themselves or not. The six detrimental ADLs to an elderly person include:

  • Bathing
  • Personal hygiene
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Sleeping on their own
  • Mobility (getting in and out of bed, walking, etc.)
  • Being able to feed themselves

The presence of food insecurity has been found to negatively affect seniors’ ability to complete these ADLs, which hinders their ability to continue to live on their own. An NFESH study found that food-insecure seniors were 30 percent more likely to report at least one ADL limitation, and this is largely fueled from being unable to physically get to the store and purchase food. This can then affect a senior’s health and take its toll on other ADLs, such as the ability to go to the bathroom on their own.

Organizations Working to End Senior Hunger

There are ways to combat senior hunger, and there are thousands of workers out there to help stemming from non-profit and governmental organizations.

The primary organization you should know about if you’re a food-insecure senior—or suffer from food insecurity at all—is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known more commonly as food stamps. SNAP assists low-income citizens with getting the necessary food they need.

As of 2014, it was found that less than 50 percent of the elderly eligible for the program were enrolled, which is a staggeringly low number. The government is willing and able to help seniors suffering from food insecurity. You can visit the benefits website to see if you are eligible for the programs and apply.

There are also organizations seeking to end senior hunger and decrease levels of food insecurity among the senior population. Some of these include the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, Meals on Wheels and other food delivery services, USDA services, and AARP:

NFESH

The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger is a large non-profit organization dedicated directly to putting an end to senior hunger. Their vision statement is as follows: “We will identify and assess this challenge in communities through funding senior-specific research, fostering local collaboration and engaging diverse partners. We foresee the creation of tangible, replicable solutions in ending senior hunger to meet the needs of an aging population.”

Government organizations like the USDA started services that bring food to seniors who don’t have the means of getting to a grocery store. There are also organizations like Meals on Wheels that help deliver healthy meals to people of all ages, including seniors.

In addition to developing programs that help get food to seniors’ doorsteps, the USDA offers services that provide financial help to seniors to get the necessary nutritious and fresh food they need to maintain health. These programs include the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Nutrition Services Incentive Program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

This group has a division that’s dedicated to ending senior hunger and has helped deliver more than 37 million meals to seniors since 2011.

Healthy Eating Tips to Remember

In addition to looking for assistance from organizations, there are steps you can take when buying your groceries to ensure that the money is spent on the proper healthy foods.

Primarily, you must know what you’re looking for when you enter a grocery store, so it’s important to make a list. This way, you won’t deviate from the plan of buying healthy foods. Make sure to look out for deals on healthy food, and buy multiples of one product if it’s non-perishable so you don’t have to make a trip back for the same deal.

It’s also important to not waste any food. If you are buying vegetables and produce in bulk, put them to use and prepare multiple meals at one time. It’s also perfectly fine to freeze meats for months at a time, so buy a few more pounds than you originally planned and put it in the freezer for several weeks from when you buy it.

You should also know exactly what you’re buying. Make sure to not load up on food that is high in carbohydrates. This can contribute to weight gain and cause you to accidentally skip meals if you are too full from previous meals. You should also compare labels when choosing between products. The products with lower sugar and sodium levels are typically better for you than their counterparts.

With these tips and the information presented above in mind, hopefully we as a society can move closer to ending hunger for seniors and our nation as a whole.

Resources    |    About Us    |    Contact Us

1200 G STREET, NW, WASHINGTON, D.C., 20005

877-664-6140

On Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 3:50 PM, Thurman Greco <thurmangreco@gmail.com> wrote:

blog post

On Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 11:36 AM, Carolina from Aginginplace.org <cgerard@nationalcouncilforagingcare.org> wrote:

Hi there,

Too many of our nation’s seniors are going hungry.

The National Council for Aging Care is dedicated to educating seniors and those who care for them.

Our article, The Facts Behind Senior Hunger: http://www.aginginplace.org/the-facts-behind-senior-hunger addresses some of the causes, complications, and cures for senior food insecurity.

Could you take a moment to help this important topic gain more visibility by adding it to http://hungerisnotadisease.com/category/upstate-new-york/

Sincerely,

Carolina Gerard
Outreach Intern
National Council for Aging Care
Aginginplace.org
1200 G Street, NW
Washington D.C. 20005
SHR11.30

Thank You to Aging in Place for sharing this article with me.  This information is both relevant and important.

Thurman Greco

.

Seniors and Those Who Care for Them

What does this photo have to do with hungry seniors and those who care for them?  A lot, actually.  This photo is a group of seniors  getting food from the Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, New York.

Carolina Gerard, an outreach intern from the National Council for Aging Care forwarded an article to me this week.  It addresses some of the causes, complications, and cures for senior food insecurity.  Can you take a moment to go to http://www.aginginplace.org/the-facts-behind-senior-hunger

I’m sure you will find it interesting and engaging.

Thanks again for reading  this article.  Please share it with your favorite social media network.

 

Ramen Noodles Should be a Choice.

Ramen Noodles should be a choice.

Ramen Noodles should be a choice.

 

On a recent New York Subway ride, I stood in a crowded car bound for Flatbush,   thinking about hungry people having only Ramen Noodles to eat because they had no money.    Just then,  an older black man near me spoke to everyone in the crowded car.

With a  well modulated, practiced, articulate voice,  this cotton top knew what he was doing.  He talked about veterans and their needs.  He obviously either wrote the speech because he was an excellent and experienced speech writer or he  found himself such a person to do the job.

He ended his short presentation with a plea for money.  And, wrapped up in this short talk  was the realization that he was as much interested in consciousness raising as he was in collecting dimes and dollars.  What he wanted, really, was for  captive audience members in the metro car to hear his message, digest it, understand it, and act on it in some beneficial way.

This man’s message  went right to my brain and my heart.  What this old cotton top didn’t know was that we are  on the same path.  I, too, am on a mission of consciousness raising and fundraising.  And, like him, I’m not doing this  just for the fun of it.  I’m on a mission to spread the word about a truly tragic and hidden horror in our country:  hunger in America.

I want people in this country to have enough food in their lives so that Ramen Noodles should be a choice.

I sell books and T-shirts to raise money,  give talks in libraries and church meeting halls. Finally,  I work daily  to interest you  in the plight of hungry people of every age  in our great nation who simply don’t have the money to buy food.  Ramen Noodles should be a choice.

When you purchase my book, you help me  feed the hungry.   All the proceeds of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” go to  buy food  for hungry people who need it.  Ramen noodles should be a choice.

Right now, because of the summer months, I’m donating peanut butter to hungry people.  At other times in the year, the focus will be on different foods.

Peanut butter has many qualities which bring it to the top of my go-to list.

Peanut butter…

is nutritious.

has a long shelf life.

doesn’t need refrigeration.

is a staple in a household with children.

can be eaten by people who have no teeth.

can be easily carried  in the pocket or backpack of a homeless person.

In short, Ramen noodles should be a choice.

Thank you for reading this post.  Please forward this article to your favorite social media network.

Ramen Noodles should be a choice.  Feed the hungry!

Thurman Greco