Summit Speaker: We Must End Senior Hunger

It’s not enough to give food to hungry people. With roughly 9 million Americans aged 50 and older facing hunger – a 79% spike in just 10 years – AARP Foundation wants to help find sustainable solutions to the problem.

“We have to redefine how to address hunger in this country,” said Jim Lutzweiler, vice president of the Hunger Impact Area for AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP.  “Somehow, we have to switch from feeding the hungry to ending hunger.”

Lutzweiler is one of the speakers at Come to the Table, a half-day summit about hunger and health in Chicago on May 14, 2014. In partnership with the Alliance to End Hunger, ProMedica is holding a series of regional summits to encourage healthcare providers nationwide to address hunger as a health issue and work with various community and government partners.

“In February, we successfully launched this collaborative effort with Congressional members and others at our summit on Capitol Hill,” said Randy Oostra, DM, FACHE, ProMedica president and chief executive officer. “Downtown Chicago is our first regional stop as we strive to continue engaging with healthcare industry leaders about focusing on prevention and addressing social determinants of health.”

Hunger Among Seniors

As the overall population of Americans aged 50 and older continues to grow, the links between hunger and health are a key reason for AARP Foundation to be involved with solving the problem, Lutzweiler said

Statistics, Lutzweiler said, show how hunger threatens the health of older Americans: Those aged 50 – 59 are almost twice as likely to be diabetic if they are at risk of hunger, for example, and they are more than five times likely to have depression.

More health problems also mean increased medical costs for seniors, who typically already are large consumers of health care, Lutzweiler said. (As part of its anti-hunger initiative, AARP Foundation commissioned “Food Insecurity among Older Adults,” the first research ever to look at hunger among those aged 50 – 59.)

“You can clearly begin to see the connection between increased health expenses and quite frankly a decreased quality of life for those who are hungry,” Lutzweiler said.

Drive to End Hunger

AARP Foundation is committed to finding the root cause of hunger among seniors and open to ideas for long-term solutions, Lutzweiler said. Like ProMedica, AARP Foundation is a member of the Alliance to End Hunger.

Called Drive to End Hunger, AARP Foundation’s initiative involves a number of approaches. Among them are working with and providing funding to anti-hunger organizations.

The foundation also is educating and enrolling older people eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Less than a third of the more than 7 million older Americans who are eligible for SNAP are enrolled, according to AARP Foundation.

“Clearly, being a part of this conversation with ProMedica and the others looking at this is important to us,” Lutzweiler said.

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