April 19, 2023

Imperial Valley Food Bank launches Senior Hunger campaign

IMPERIAL – In April the Imperial Valley Food Bank (IVFB) launched a Senior Hunger campaign to heighten awareness around food insecurity among older adults living in Imperial County.

“Often times these seniors are living on a fixed income while supporting other family members like grandchildren,” said Sara Griffen, Executive Director of the IVFB. “When you combine the rising prices of food, medical expenses and the extra summer electricity costs to stay cool, it can become an extremely difficult situation.”

Food insecurity is described by the United States Department of Agriculture in two levels. Low food security, which refers to lower quality, variety, or desirability of the food eaten by an individual, without reducing the amount of food consumed. In contrast, very low food security references persistent disruptions in someone’s eating patterns causing a reduction in food eaten. (1)

“One in five seniors live in poverty in Imperial Valley, and without a steady source of nutritious food they are at greater risk for malnutrition and potentially hospitalization,” Griffen explained, referencing local data collected from the United States Census Bureau.

Some older adults make the difficult decision to compromise their health to cope with food insecurity by postponing medical care, underusing costly medication, choosing between food and other basic necessities or deciding to forgo specific food needed for their medical diets, according to the Food Research and Action Center. (2)

As a result of these coping strategies, older adults can negatively affect their health and experience an increase in doctor visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Last year researchers surveyed more than 4,000 adults over the age of 50 to learn more about hunger among older adults and to determine whether the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were affecting adults' ability to purchase affordable food. (3)

The 2022 Hunger Trends study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for AARP found that rising food prices last year were the top factor affecting older adults' ability to access food. When it came to navigating grocery spending, adults 50 to 64 surveyed were more likely to buy less food or buy less healthy food items as ways of dealing with higher grocery prices. (3)

Older adults suffering from food insecurity often consume lower levels of key nutrients such as protein, vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, and iron, which can lead to the most common and costly health problems, according to the Food Research and Action Center. (4)

Diets with not enough fruits and vegetables and too much saturated or trans fats, have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some types of cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (5)

“Seniors are often the majority demographic at our drive-thru and walk-up food distributions,” said Alba Sanchez Program Director for the Imperial Valley Food Bank. “Some are picking up for themselves while others are picking up food to support their families.”

Since joining the food bank’s monthly food distribution, Calexico resident Isabel Ortiz has been able to stretch her family’s food budget.

“My husband and I have a small pension, so this food helps us a lot,” Ortiz said. “I make food for my grandchildren during the week and take them to school to help my son.”

In response to the growing food insecurity crisis among local seniors, the Imperial Valley Food Bank is committed to bringing awareness and providing support to all individuals struggling with their next meal.

If you would like to help support individuals facing food insecurity, please consider donating.

If you need food assistance, please call the Imperial Valley Food Bank at 760-370-0966 and a bilingual food counselor will be able to assist you.