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Seniors struggle with food insecurities

Senior citizens line up to eat a nutritious meal consisting of a wide variety of food at the Senior Center in Picayune. This is part of their Pot Luck Lunch they hold at the center every other Friday.

Senior citizens enjoy a nutritious meal consisting of a wide variety of food at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County. This is part of their Pot Luck Lunch they hold at the center every other Friday.

For most people in the nation, gathering food is nothing but a trip to the closest grocery store, but for many seniors, it can be more difficult than that.
According to Feeding America’s 2016 Map the Meal Gap, about 17 percent of people in Pearl River County are food insecure, which equates to over 9,000 people. Also, in Mississippi, one in five seniors are food insecure, states Feeding the Gulf Coast in a press release.
“The hardest part about the life of seniors is affording food. It’s not only difficult for them to afford food, but also to go out and get it,” said Senior Center Participants Coordinator Kathleen Penton.
Some seniors are not capable of driving themselves to get food, making the task even more challenging than it should be, Penton said.
“I really enjoy coming to the Senior Center and helping those that cannot do things on their own like make a plate of food and carry it back to their table. God gave me this amazing gift to help others and I try to use that gift every day,” said senior citizen Martha Kelley.
Because of their age, seniors have special diets, which are beneficial for them, but also expensive, Penton said. To help ease this problem, the Senior Nutrition Food Demos program teaches low-income senior citizens how to make affordable healthy recipes.
“Healthy food is expensive now. I would love to eat salads every meal but it begins to become so costly. It’s really hard to be healthy when you get older,” said Pearl River County senior citizen Susan Madere.
The senior citizens receive Social Security checks at the beginning of every month, but toward the end of the month, seniors are left with a difficult decision.
In some cases, senior citizens have to choose between food or medicine because they cannot afford the expense of both, Madere said.
“Medicines are extremely expensive, but are a necessity for some of us. It is hard to choose between a healthy meal or medicine,” said Madere.
According to the Feeding the Gulf Coast release, “hunger today looks different than it did 100 years ago. Today’s picture of hunger is not of gaunt, unemployed individuals scavenging for food.”
Instead, it is people who cannot afford to pay bills and put nutritious food on the table, forcing them to resort to fast food chains and cheap food to make it day-to-day, the release states.
In other cases, some senior citizens do not have families to turn to when they struggle to afford food, which can be the difference between eating and not eating on a daily basis, said Penton.
Volunteer services and a couple of programs like the Mobile Pantry Program and the SNAP program are helpful solutions to these problems. In Pearl River County alone, the Mobile Pantry program received over 200,000 pounds of food from their retail partners in Picayune, the release states. Also, according to the release, the organization’s SNAP outreach and application assistance program “helps local families, especially seniors, overcome bureaucratic hurdles to complete applications and get the assistance they need to keep their families healthy and active.”
“People need to know about the struggles senior citizens go through just to acquire food. If they knew, we would see great progress in this cause and help many people find their next meal safely,” said Madere.