Kentuckians in their 50s have the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation. According to a new report by the group Feeding America, 18.6% of adults age 50 to 59 in the state have experienced hunger or uncertainty about where their next meal was coming from. Nationally, the rate is 11.3%.
The study looked at nationwide census survey data from 2001 through 2017 and found a sharp increase in food insecurity among middle-aged adults during the Great Recession, from 2008 through 2012. Michael Halligan, chief executive of God's Pantry Food Bank, Inc. in Lexington, says incomes are shrinking and individuals 50 and older are making less money compared with previous generations. "So we're looking at the 50-to-59 age range to begin to understand, as adults reach retirement age, what types of challenges will they be faced with when they reach that retirement age," he states.
The report concludes that nearly one in eight persons in their 50s were food insecure in 2017, a 46% increase from 2001. A companion Feeding America report looking specifically at senior hunger found Kentucky's 8.4% food insecurity rate for people 60 or older also tops the national average. Halligan says many seniors are forced to stretch their dollars for medical care, transportation and other expenses.
"Oftentimes, what we see with seniors are individuals who are living on a fixed income, and they are trying to make a decision between using the scarce resources that they have to buy medicines or to purchase food," he states.
The authors of the report note that despite the end of the Great Recession, across the country almost one in 12 seniors were food insecure in 2017.
Halligan says in Kentucky, there are numerous resources to help seniors struggling with how to buy food, including the federally funded Commodity Supplemental Food Program run by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The program works to provide people 60 and older at risk of hunger with food assistance.