Senior Hunger: A Troubling Reality

By Jean Blish Siers *
Senior Hunger: A Troubling RealityIn the Charlotte, North Carolina area where I work, approximately 25% of seniors are food insecure. That’s a pretty stunning statistic in our shiny New South city, where average rents have inched up to more than $1,000 a month and luxury car dealers abound. And yet we see it every day, in the people who come to the churches where we deliver, or stop by the soup kitchens we serve. Retirement income often doesn’t keep pace with inflation, and too often nutritious food is one of the first things to go.

This has serious repercussions. According to a study by Feeding America, food-insecure seniors are at increased risk for several chronic health conditions. These seniors are, among other things:

  • 60% more likely to experience depression,
  • 53% more likely to report a heart attack, and
  • 40% more like to report congestive heart failure.

A lot of my volunteers deliver to soup kitchens and churches that serve older populations. Others go door-to-door with bags of corn or tomatoes or sweet potatoes. When an older, home-bound adult receives a basket of muscadine grapes in the fall, the look on their face will tell you they are remembering a time fifty or sixty or seventy years earlier, when they would pick those grapes on their farms or at their grandparents’ house. Not only is the food good for them; it does them good.

There is an interesting pair of graphs from a report compiled by AARP. (Download the PDF) While nearly three-quarters of seniors report wanting to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, 47% say they don’t – they are simply too expensive. Which is why people will actually cry when our volunteers appear at their doorsteps with a bag of fresh corn on a hot August day.

We live in a time when people seem more polarized than ever before. But I think and hope we could all agree on one thing: our seniors, some of our most vulnerable citizens, those who fought wars to protect us, who raised us and taught us, deserve better than to go hungry. They deserve better than to become ill because they can’t afford decent food. They deserve the respect and dignity and health that good food provides.

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.


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In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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