Hunger Free Vermont improves access for Vermont’s seniors to nutrition programs that help them stay healthy and independent.
Hunger among older Americans is a growing problem in the United States, with about nine million older Americans at risk of hunger in 2011, an 88% increase since 2001. 11% of Vermont seniors face the threat of hunger. Hunger and the risk of hunger have significant impacts on health and well-being; food insecure seniors are more likely to be diabetic, suffer from depression and have limited daily activities, and are far less likely to be considered in excellent or good health. Many seniors living in rural areas struggle with isolation, transportation, and the high cost of heating through Vermont’s long winters, increasing the likelihood that they will experience hunger. Younger seniors (aged 60-69) are particularly vulnerable to hunger and inadequate nutrition because they are often not yet eligible for other safety net programs such as Medicare.
There are a variety of federal nutrition programs available to seniors, including home-delivered meals (known as Meals on Wheels), senior community meals, and 3SquaresVT (formerly called food stamps and known nationally as SNAP). Home-delivered meals and senior community meals provide hot, nutritious, prepared meals to seniors either in their own homes or at congregate sites where seniors can eat and socialize. Both programs are vital to the health and well-being of thousands of Vermont seniors. Unfortunately, despite a growing need, these programs have been level-funded for many years, forcing the organizations that run these programs to do more with less.
3SquaresVT gives eligible low-income households money each month for food and is a vital resource for seniors to afford groceries that can keep them healthy and independent. While participation in 3SquaresVT has grown in recent years, participation among eligible seniors remains low. Since 2009, Hunger Free Vermont has explored what influences senior participation in 3SquaresVT. Focus groups, round tables, and research both in Vermont and across the nation show that low participation is due to a variety of barriers and challenges particular to the senior population, including stigma, pride, and not wanting to burden or take away from younger generations.
We work with Area Agencies on Aging, health care providers, community volunteers, senior centers, state agencies, senior housing sites, and seniors to help more seniors access quality nutrition programs that are right for them. We work to support Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, and others who run home-delivered and senior community meal programs. We raise awareness about the struggle that so many Vermont seniors face, and work to strengthen the nutrition programs available. Through our 3SquaresVT Outreach and Education program, we strive to increase the number of Vermont seniors informed about 3SquaresVT; increase the number of applications for and total overall participation in 3SquaresVT among seniors; and guide seniors through the 3SquaresVT application process.
Through the Senior Hunger Outreach and Education program, we will ensure that all eligible seniors have the information they need to access the 3SquaresVT program with ease, and that vibrant home-delivered meals programs and senior meal sites are available throughout the state so that Vermont seniors can access quality nutrition throughout their day.
RESOURCES FOR SENIORS, SERVICE PROVIDERS, AND ADVOCATES
- Visit Hunger Free Vermont’s vermontfoodhelp.com, a comprehensive resource for 3SquaresVT applicants and advocates that includes an eligibility calculator and outreach tools.
- Read Senator Sanders’ Senior Hunger: The Human Toll and Budget Consequences reporting that seniors who are food insecure also suffer more illnesses and are less able to remain independent than those who have adequate healthy food.