Author Archives: merceralliance

Third Emergency Funding Package (CV3)

The latest and third emergency funding package (CV3) was finalized last night. Here’s a snapshot of the national picture – more info to come on NJ’s share of these allocations soon!

HEALTHCARE: Some preliminary highlights: 

  • The first emergency funding request (CV1) allocated over $3B to the Secretary of HHS to be invested in state and local health departments ($950M), community health centers ($100M), and the purchasing of vaccines and treatments ($300M), etc.
  • CV3 includes an additional $100 billion for a new program that will direct aid to health care institutions treating patients on the front line of the crisis. These include hospitals, public and not-profit entities, and Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers. 
  • CV3 includes $4.3 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to purchase personal protective equipment, lab testing, infection control and mitigation to prevent spread, and other public health preparedness and response activities
  • CV3 also includes $3.5 billion to help healthcare sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential access childcare assistance.

WORKERS: 

  • CV3 includes an extended UI program that increases the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week and ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months. It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed workers and workers in the gig economy. We pushed for structural reforms that will allow workers to get unemployment insurance quickly and would allow furloughed workers to stay on as employees, so that when, God willing, this crisis ends, they can quickly resume work. 

FAMILIES

  • CV3 provides direct cash payments of $1200 to working class Americans, twice the amount originally proposed. An additional $500 cash payment is available per child. Senator Booker was among the first to advocate for direct, immediate cash payments to families
  • CV3 allocates more than $7 billion for housing and homelessness assistance programs to help underserved and working-class Americans avoid evictions and minimize impacts caused by unemployment or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19.
  • Throughout the crisis, Senator Booker has fought to protect families who fall behind on payments for rent or mortgage, advocated for student loan relief, and filed legislation to temporarily ban bank overdraft fees.

SMALL BUSINESS:  

  • New Jersey is now approved for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program – businesses can apply for long term, low interest loans through the SBA’s website
  • In CV3, Senator Booker and Democrats pushed for an additional $10 billion for SBA to provide emergency grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses. There’s another $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

EDUCATION: 

  • CV3 includes $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions for them to provide continuing educational service to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions. 
  • To ensure that children with disabilities are receiving the educational support they need while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Booker has urged the US Dept. of Education to provide school administrators and educators with the guidance on how students will receive access to school lunch programs, online instruction, and other critical services.

Please note that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that Senator Booker’s team will post regular updates on his website. For more information on the State of New Jersey’s response, or for questions, please visit www.covid19.nj.gov 

As coronavirus continues to fundamentally alter our daily lives, I ask that you take the time to responsibly check in on loved ones, friends, and neighbors – and most importantly, take care of your own well-being. During these trying times, practicing kindness, compassion, and love will go a long way to rising above this challenge.

Beginning January 1, 2020 The State of New Jersey will operate Mercer County Homeless Hotline

Beginning January 1, 2020 The STATE of NEW JERSEY OPERATES THE MERCER COUNTY HOMELESS HOTLINE (including Code Blue)

Mercer County Residents experiencing a homeless emergency

PLEASE CALL 211

24/7/365

Service is free, confidential, multilingual and always open.

Seeking an Energetic and Committed Executive Director

The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a 510(c) (3) /non-profit that seeks an energetic and committed Executive Director to lead the organization and its Board of Directors in the continued advocacy for, and development and implementation of, its nationally recognized evidence based Housing First system building approach to ending homelessness in the Trenton/ Mercer County New Jersey community, and beyond.

Required

  • A Master’s degree, or Bachelor’s degree and three years relevant experience.
  • Social media and marketing skills.
  • Successful team-building and consensus-building skills
  • Demonstrated written and verbal communication skills
  • Proven success in fundraising and grant writing
  • Knowledge of homelessness and housing issues

Preferred

Salary:

  • $50,000 – $60,000/year commensurate with experience

Please submit a resume and cover letter by October 21, 2019.

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness
Attn: Search Committee
1001 Spruce Street, Suite 205
Trenton, NJ 08638

or Email:

Hurricane Sandy victims will get more federal help after all in bill Trump signed

By Jonathan D. Salant  |
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

WASHINGTON — Two long-sought provisions designed to help Hurricane Sandy victims were added to an unrelated bill that was signed into law by President Donald Trump.

One would protect Sandy victims from having to pay back federal assistance if the government decides more than three years later that they received too much aid. The other would allow them to receive both Small Business Administration disaster loans and Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance grants.

“The federal government has made it difficult for some in our community to recover from Sandy because of the actions of a few bad actors,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist.

“Without this change in the law, FEMA could continue to change their mind on grants and make disaster victims pay back previously awarded disaster assistance, sometimes years after the award.”

Both provisions were championed by MacArthur and were added to legislation that continued Federal Aviation Administration operations for five years.

The FAA bill also included a House-passed provision sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne Jr. to have the Department of Homeland Security help develop plans for stronger security at passenger railroad stations and the non-secure areas of airports. 

“Heightened security has made attacks against aircraft more difficult to carry out, so terrorists have turned their attention to soft targets such as the crowded public areas of airports and other facilities,” said Payne, D-10th Dist.

And the FAA measure includes several programs for the technical center in Egg Harbor Township, which employs 3,500 people. There are millions of dollars in the bill to expand the facility and its research programs.

“It will allow critical research programs to continue uninterrupted while ensuring our FAA Technical Center has a leading role in developing, testing and deploying advanced aviation technologies in the 21st Century,” said Rep Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., the House aviation subcommittee chairman.

As for the Sandy measures, the first bill MacArthur introduced as a member of Congress would limit to three years the time FEMA could recoup overpayments to victims, except in cases of fraud or abuse. The House passed that bill last December.

The second provision would allow the president to permit disaster victims to receive both aid and loans from the federal government.

“The federal government should make it easier, not harder for those who have just gone through a natural disaster,” MacArthur said. “When homes and businesses are destroyed, the last thing families should have to worry about is whether taking an SBA loan will disqualify them for FEMA grants that become available later on.”

Congressional Republicans have been reticent to help those who suffered losses from Hurricane Sandy but not those from more recent storms in GOP-led states. The current House speaker, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., even voted against Sandy after the storm hit.

Congress last year voted to give special tax breaks to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria while rebuffing efforts to do the same for those who suffered property damage under Sandy. Most House Democrats opposed the measure because it excluded Sandy victims from its benefits.

In addition, a majority of House Republicans voted to strip $900 million out of a spending bill to build a new Hudson River train tunnel to the existing tube could be taken out of service to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The effort failed.

Trump later threatened to shut down the government if any funds for the Gateway Tunnel project was included in the final bill, but lawmakers got around his veto threat.

He also dropped plans to eliminate $107 million in Sandy aid, removing the proposed cut from a list of budget reductions sent to Congress for approval.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at . Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

Murphy Pledges New Tax Credits, Other Programs for Housing, Communities

Colleen O’Dea | NJ Spotlight

Governor says his new economic plan will help rejuvenate rundown neighborhoods, give tax credits for affordable housing

A day after unveiling an ambitious economic development plan, Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his administration gave some details on several new programs that would provide tax credits to help revitalize communities and build much-needed housing.

Speaking in Atlantic City yesterday to several hundred attendees at the annual Governor’s Conference on Housing and Economic Development, Murphy stressed the importance of ensuring that actions to improve the state’s economy include building homes affordable to New Jerseyans.

“Economic development cannot be skewed to mean only that which benefits shareholders,” Murphy said. “We can have strong economic growth and safe, affordable housing options for families. We can have strong and diverse communities.”

Murphy’s remarks were part of a different tone at this year’s conference, his first as governor. Administration officials talked about a number of state programs and initiatives to help officials with economic development dilemmas. Sometimes the programs offer financial incentives and other times technical assistance. For many in the housing community, the fact that Murphy turned up at the conference to discuss his plans showed the importance he places on developing local economies.

“I know you hear from the governor every year at this event,” Murphy joked to murmurs and laughter, making a reference to former Gov. Chris Christie’s absence from prior conferences.

Murphy: ‘We must have bigger goals’

“We have a new mindset on what ‘economic development’ means,” he continued. “We’re not going to gauge our success simply by the number of new businesses we create or the amount of capital flowing into New Jersey … We must have bigger goals. A more diverse and inclusive economy, with hundreds of thousands more jobs at better wages, especially for women and minorities, and a significantly lower urban poverty rate.”Murphy went on to discuss four of the planks of his day-old economic plan, which by 2025 seeks to create 300,000 new jobs, many in the innovative technology sector, and use a $500 million state-led venture capital fund for investments. The plan seeks to overhaul New Jersey’s major economic-development tax-incentive programs to jump-start growth in communities statewide.

“We’re excited,” said Leslie Anderson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority during the opening session of the conference. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

Three of these programs envision the use of state tax credits, although the administration has not provided any estimates of the costs. Officials said on Monday that the tax credits will be so targeted and carefully limited by caps that they will generate enough revenue growth to more than pay for the forgiven tax liabilities. All these programs would need legislative approval.

One of these is a revamped program to reclaim and redevelop brownfields, which are vacant commercial and industrial sites that either have or are suspected of having some sort of environmental contamination. The new program would include a “more timely” remediation and development tax credit, as well as a dedicated loan fund available through the state Economic Development Authority.

Tax credits for a range of investments

“Sites that were part of our economic past can be part of our future — where new and affordable housing can replace a barren lot, connecting a community rather than separating it,” Murphy said.

A second program called NJ Aspire would provide tax credits for investments in commercial, residential, and mixed-use development in cities, downtowns and suburban neighborhoods served by mass transit. The EDA’s Economic Redevelopment and Growth Program, or ERG, fulfills a similar purpose currently.

“NJ Aspire can help facilitate the conversion of surface parking lots, vacant and abandoned lots, and other underutilized properties into the cornerstones of inviting, thriving, and diverse communities where new residents will flock, and where the arts and culture, and small businesses, can flourish,” Murphy said.

The third tax credit would be available for historic preservation projects and be modeled on a federal program that Murphy said has provided a nearly 30-percent return on investment at the same time as it created jobs and gave older structures a new purpose.

“Let’s put returns like this to work for our state,” Murphy said.

Federal program for distressed neighborhoods

The fourth plank, and one on which the state is placing a lot of emphasis, would not involve significant state spending. New Jersey is hoping for big returns from the new federal Opportunity Zone program, which is meant to bring new private investment into distressed neighborhoods by giving investors preferential tax treatment for spending in those areas. New Jersey has designated 169 census tracts across the state as zones.

“It is into these communities — overlooked areas where significant numbers of residents live in persistent poverty — that we will aim to direct new private capital investment, to create jobs and restore economic vitality,” Murphy said.

The state has created a zone mapping tool and agencies are working to provide information to municipal officials and identify projects that are “ready to go” so that once final rules are in place they might take advantage of potential investments. Additionally, the EDA is working on a “digital marketplace” to make it easier to help businesses and entrepreneurs find zones for their investments. A conference session on the zones was so popular that there was even no room for standing inside.

Leaders of the key state agencies involved in economic development and housing discussed other projects in the works to help struggling communities and, in many cases, provide homes for those with low incomes. Among them:

  • Providing financial assistance to about 2,000 first-time homebuyers over the next two years;
  • Awarding as much as $30 million in tax credits a year over three years to build 1,500-2,000 low-income housing units, with priority given to communities with high-performing schools and opportunity zones;
  • Including healthcare components, such as a nurse and physical activities on site, in new senior-citizen housing construction to better help residents be able to live in their apartments longer;
  • Partnering with hospitals to help fund new housing developments of 60-70 units in distressed areas to provide homes for the homeless, low-income residents and hospital staff.

Murphy: Not going to let plan ‘sit on a shelf’

“We are starting on the road at the micro level to enact what the governor announced yesterday in a real way,” said Charles Richman, executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

Murphy lauded the state’s efforts in economic development and housing and vowed to see the ideas in his plan to fruition.

“The plan we unveiled yesterday is not something we’re going to let sit on a shelf,” he said. “We’re going to put it to work for our communities and our state.”

As such, Murphy provided a new mission for the annual conference.

“This cannot be just an annual chance for us to get together to talk about the challenges facing our state that never seem to get fixed,” he said. “We must instead make this an annual check-in, to gauge our progress from the year before in tackling our challenges, and in moving our state forward as one.”

Save the date for the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness annual ecumenical memorial service on Friday, December 21st.

WHY: National Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day
WHEN: Friday, December 21st
WHERE: Turning Point United Methodist Church – 15 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ 08608
*TIME: 10:00 a.m.

All are welcome to attend and remember those who were lost this year.

* The time may be subject to change.

Former Chairman Clifford Goldman Passes Away

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of our former chairman Clifford Goldman.

Cliff was a gifted individual of great character, intellect and compassion. He was able to bring his abundant talents together to passionately advocate on behalf of the homeless families and individuals of the Trenton/Mercer community, and guide and promote the development of the Alliance’s nationally recognized efforts to end homelessness.

His great personal warmth and spirit infused the Alliance and its community and governmental partners with the zeal to develop creative, yet pragmatic, solutions that focused on using permanent housing to end homelessness, and reconnect our most challenged citizens with our community,

He will be greatly missed by us all, but forever remembered for his many contributions as a true public servant.

Cliff’s family has chosen to direct memorial contributions in his memory to the Coalition of Peace Action or the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

Memorial contributions to the Mercer Alliance should be sent directly to:
Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness
1001 Spruce Street, Suite 205
Trenton, NJ 08638

NJ Budget Update + More News

Local Advocates Join Statewide Call for Restoration of Affordable Housing Funds – Tapinto

The leaders of several local organizations including Paterson Habitat for Humanity, Saint Paul’s Community Development Corporation, the Paterson Housing Authority, and the City of Paterson’s Neighborhood Assistance Office lent their signatures to a letter urging Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to preserve a fund dedicated to creation of affordable housing across the state….Signatories to the letter, dated May 15 and sent by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, a statewide association of more than 250 individuals and organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities, expressed their “deep concern” about a proposal by Murphy’s Administration to divert $46 million from the fund. Bob Guarasci, Founder and CEO of the New Jersey Development Corporation (NJCDC), the well recognized non-profit organization leading efforts to revitalize the city’s Great Falls Area, also signed the letter and told TAPinto Paterson that he is “hopeful that the Governor and Legislature will work collaboratively to maximize resources for affordable housing, from the Trust Fund and other potential sources.” – https://www.tapinto.net/articles/local-advocates-join-statewide-call-for-restorati

Graffiti artist paints his way to respect – Star Ledger
Hector Garcia had doubts about the pitch from a graffiti artist, who, unbeknownst to him, had once tagged property in the Ironbound section of Newark. Vincent Santorella promised to paint a mural on the side of Garcia’s store, Station Wines & Liquors, and he guaranteed that no one would deface it because he knew the graffiti writers in the area. Garcia didn’t have anything to lose, considering the grassroots Ironbound Community Corp. offered to pay for the work with a grant.
http://starledger.nj.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=289dc94eb

No ‘April Surprise’ in State Taxes, Budget Strain Remains for Murphy and Lawmakers – NJ Spotlight
The latest state tax-collection figures were unveiled by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration yesterday, and they did nothing to help end a simmering disagreement between legislative leaders and the governor over taxes and the next state budget. Lawmakers who had been holding out hope that April income-tax collections would surge well above projections instead heard state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio deliver a revenue update that indicated tax collections are tracking very closely to the latest projections with just weeks left in the current fiscal year.
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/18/05/21/no-april-surprise-in-tax-collections-budget-strain-remains-for-murphy-lawmakers/

What Does it Take to Protect Children From Lead? – WNYC
Several members of New York City Council have introduced what they call the largest overhaul of city laws on childhood lead exposure in 14 years. The package of 23 bills aims to protect children from lead poisoning by tackling lead in paint, dust, water and soil throughout the city.
https://www.wnyc.org/story/what-does-it-take-protect-children-lead-city-council-proposes-raft-new-legislation/

More companies should do their part to reduce number of N.J.’s ‘working poor’ – NJ Advance Media
Janet and Daniella were prime examples of women whom the United Way define as ALICE — Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. “ALICE” lives and works in every community — but does not earn enough to cover basic essentials and pay for monthly expenses. One-quarter of New Jersey households are considered ALICE, despite being one of the wealthiest states in the nation.
http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/05/more_companies_should_do_their_part_to_reduce_numb.html

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:

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.

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.

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.