The “Senior Hunger Report Card” released by Meals On Wheels found that one in seven seniors in America – 8.3 million people – were faced with the threat of hunger in 2010, a 78% rise since 2001. The study found that while the threat of hunger for the U.S. population as a whole had decreased since the end of the recession in 2009, it rose for people age 60 and older, mainly among those earning less than twice the poverty level in 2010.
“There is no question that we are failing our seniors, some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Enid A. Borden, CEO of the Meals On Wheels Research Foundation, in a statement. “The numbers spell out our failure with clarity, and at the same time they call us to action. No one in this, the richest nation on Earth should face the threat of hunger, no one. And seniors, who have little power to change their circumstances, deserve our special attention.”
At greatest risk were seniors living in the South and Southwest, minorities, people who were divorced or separated, the disabled, and seniors age 60 to 69. In terms of geography, the threat of hunger for seniors increased in 44 states since 2007, the report found.
Hunger translates into economic challenges for the U.S. economy, noted the authors of the report: “… food insecurity is associated with a host of poor health outcomes for seniors such as reduced nutrient intakes and limitations in activities of daily living. This implies that the recent increase in senior hunger will likely lead to additional nutritional and health challenges for our nation.”
James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois authored the report.
As a disabled American, let me put this in hard numbers for you: I have a monthly income from Social Security Disability Insurance of slightly over $1,100 a month (I held down decent paying jobs when I worked). After subtracting for rent, utilities, phone, car insurance, medical insurance premiums, co-pays for my prescriptions, gas, over-the-counter medications, and payments on old bills… that leaves me about $30 a month to pay medical deductibles and co-pays and the 20% Medicare doesn’t cover, laundry, toilet paper…
However, the powers that be have set the bar so high for Medicaid that according to their calculations I “earn” $150 a month too much to get Medicaid to back up my Medicare. I just got the hospital bill for a 3-day stay in January: $1,200 after Medicare. I’m still waiting for the bill for another stay in February. I can get Medicaid if I show that I have paid over $900 out-of-pocket each six months. Let’s see, $50 a month times six months equals $300. I be screwed.
I honestly don’t know how I’m going to pay that $900 every six months. Use the Fingerhut catalogue for toilet paper, I guess. I was better off on our state’s low income health insurance (VHAP)… but I don’t qualify for that anymore, because I’m now on Medicare. I cannot imagine how people only getting $600 a month are surviving.
I only qualify for $175 a month in food stamps. Between my coronary artery disease and my diabetes, I should be eating a diet heavy in protein and fresh vegetables and fruit. Right. I be screwed again.
I cannot, on my food stamps and income, eat the type of diet I should be. That means that I am technically an uncontrolled diabetic, which has led to issues with my kidneys. My blood work still sucks, which means the CAD is also uncontrolled, so I’ve got two coronary arteries at risk of blocking and killing me.
I eke out the food stamps with visits to the local food shelves. I try to not do that too often, because there are so many people worse off than me.
I wish I could work. Really. I miss being able to go to Denny’s, for crying out loud. I miss being able to buy clothes in a real store, or even the Salvation Army. I know that when my van finally dies, I won’t be able to replace it (the cars-for-the-poor program in my state is only for working poor families, not disabled singles).
I do not wonder that more and more seniors, disabled and displaced are at risk of hunger. Increases in assistance on one hand are negated by revised income limits on the other. Some programs have been cut to the bone, meaning lower benefits or none at all. The Low Income Heating Assistance Program is a favorite for Congress to cut when they need to look “firm in their resolve” to cut government expenses.
They do not care that all forms of heating fuel, from wood to electric, have gone up in price, some of them drastically in the past ten years. They do not care about the seniors trying to survive with thermostats set to 55o. They do not see the little children sharing a bed with their parents so they can stay warm while they sleep.
Let me rephrase that; they do not want to see. They know these people are out there. They are passing laws to make it harder for these people to vote. They are trying, all over the country, to disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, the disabled. They do not want America’s most vulnerable citizens to vote this year.
They are afraid.