Hunger Matters

9-26-16-hunger-mattersDawna Bennett, MS, RD

Hunger exists in every county in the U.S., affecting 48 million Americans. In the Western New York counties of Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, and Cattaraugus, 180,670 people (13.4 percent of the population) are food insecure.

What is food insecurity?  It is not having consistent access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy life. The reasons for food insecurity are complex, and can include the loss of a job, inadequate wages, injury, illness, lack of access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and costs associated with unexpected hardships.

Hunger and poverty are not isolated to the inner-cities, people in suburbs and rural communities are affected as well. Those who struggle with hunger are often forced to choose between paying for medicine and utility bills or purchasing nutritious food. In 2015, 2.9 million households (eight percent) with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity, and more than 1.2 million households (nine percent) composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.

The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50 percent when the youngest of the Baby Boomer Generation reaches age 60 in 2025. For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger can be more difficult than for the general population. Food insecure seniors may have enough money to purchase food, but do not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems. That is why food programs like Meals on Wheels for WNY are so vital in helping to prevent hunger.

In our community, Tops Friendly Markets, for the third year in a row, has teamed up with the Buffalo Bills defense and Campbell’s®ChunkyTM Soup to help tackle hunger. For every tackle the Bills defense makes, Campbell’s® and Tops will donate 20 cans of soup to local food banks. To date, more than 37,000 cans of soup have been donated and served to visitors of area food banks.

September is Hunger Action Month. Whether it’s advocating, donating, or volunteering, everyone can find a way that works for them to make a difference during Hunger Action Month. Let’s use our voices as a community to help fight hunger!