September is Hunger Awareness Month and all across the country, hunger-relief organizations and their supporters are working to provide information to their communities about the long-term effects food insecurity can have on our children, seniors, and families. It is no surprise that food insecurity can be detrimental and even dangerous for our seniors.
According to the Hospital Association of San Diego & Imperial Counties, food insecure seniors are at a high risk for lengthened hospital stays, readmission, and even death compared to food-secure seniors. Even more alarming is the fact that more than 50 percent of seniors admitted to the hospital are malnourished or at risk for malnourishment. Consuming fewer nutrients and calories reduces the iron and protein intake of seniors, which is crucial to their health and ward off many issues as they age.
One in four seniors in San Diego County are food insecure, and with potential rising costs associated with housing and health care, this is an issue that the San Diego Food Bank and San Diego Hunger Coalition are closely following as this number is likely to grow. The Food Bank administers the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), or senior food box program, which provides staple items to seniors once a month across the county. Pairing this program with applications for CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) can help a senior make it through the month on a limited income without watering down meals or forgoing necessary medication.
Only 42 percent of seniors who qualify for CalFresh are currently participating in the program, most likely due to the unique barriers and stigmas this population faces. Beginning in October of 2017, it will be easier than ever for seniors to apply for this program, thanks to the hard work of advocates across the state. New Elderly Simplified Application and Standard Medical Deduction rules provide that households with members over 60 without earned income will not need to re-certify for CalFresh for 3 years, and that households with medical expenses of at least $35.01 will receive a standard deduction of $120. This means larger benefit amounts and less work to re-certify for our senior population.
For more information about San Diego Hunger Awareness Month, visit www.sandiegofoodbank.org/hunger or learn how to become a Hunger Free advocate through the San Diego Hunger Coalition by clicking here.