Food Insecurity

By Doug Mayberry

September 16, 2019 5 min read

Q: Due to my arthritis, I've been having a harder and harder time getting around. I finally started using a cane to help with the pain, but it doesn't help as much as I'd like.

I've mostly learned to adjust, but I no longer like to leave the house. Routine errands are especially frustrating, including grocery shopping. I also am increasingly insecure in my own driving ability and will probably have to give it up soon.

I find myself often choosing to skip meals because I dread going to the store and walking around to find products. As a result, I've lost quite a bit of weight. My family is starting to worry.

What can I do to make sure I eat?

A: You are far from the only senior struggling to get enough food. Recent years have seen widespread efforts to address childhood hunger, but seniors struggle with the same issues.

In 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture found that 7.8% of senior households were food insecure, meaning without reliable access to enough nutritious, affordable food. Logistical issues, such as mobility and convenience, as well as fixed incomes contribute to this problem.

Although it's harder for seniors to get to food, there are resources to help you.

One of the best options for homebound seniors is the charity Meals on Wheels, which provides and delivers free or reduced-cost meals to millions of seniors in need. Although it provides a much-needed service for seniors, it is consequently in high demand. In some areas, seniors are put on long waiting lists for enrollment.

If finances are an issue, SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — may help. Three in every five seniors qualified for food assistance don't enroll in the program, even when they need the support.

Your local Area Agency on Aging can also connect you to local resources aimed to assist seniors.

Food delivery services can also help. Many grocery delivery services such as Instacart, Amazon and many others will deliver what you need directly to you. However, these services are concentrated around cities for now.

More and more grocery stores such as Safeway, Target and Walmart now offer online grocery shopping. Although some locations will deliver your order, many more allow you to place an order to pick up in person, cutting the burden of shopping.

Due to the difficulty of procuring food, many seniors learn to live on an insufficient diet. However, doing so can exacerbate existing medical conditions and degrade your health.

When you do go food shopping, stock up on reliable essentials. Fill your pantry with healthy nonperishables, such as frozen vegetables, canned beans, oatmeal and others; these will provide food in a pinch.

Instead of wasting away, take advantage of the resources available to you. Your family also may be able to pitch in. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter

SECURITY TIPS

Q: Everybody always harps on about seniors and identity theft. Luckily, I've never had a problem with fraud.

Less fortunately, my granddaughter was recently scammed into purchasing several gift cards and giving information to a caller. She is an educated, recent college grad, and I never dreamed this would happen to her.

What are the essentials to avoid scams?

A: Contrary to popular belief, anyone can be a victim of a scam.

There are two basic red flags that can help identify any scam.

Avoid any urgent requests for money. Don't give out personal information that an unsolicited caller should already have access to.

In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission actually found that people in their 20s are almost three times as likely as seniors to lose money to fraud.

Millennials are online before they learn to protect their information and face an illusion of increased identity security. The availability of their personal information allows scammers to create a false appearance of legitimacy.

Use common sense to recognize a scam and keep a cool head. When something doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to say no! — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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