Helping Those Going Hungry in Maine
One person going hungry in Maine is one person too many. Ours is a state with a widespread population and many who reside here are on low or fixed incomes. In fact, one third of Mainers 65+ rely on Social Security for 100 percent of their income, just over $1000 per month.
The economic turmoil of the last several years hit many seniors hard. Their savings may have diminished or even disappeared and, depending on their age and health, it may not be possible to recover those losses. Considering the rising cost of food, fuel, and basic living necessities, making ends meet is becoming more of a problem for many older Mainers.
AARP Foundation published a report in 2011 showing that hunger among older Americans has jumped nearly 80 percent in just ten years. Of the 50 million Americans presently at risk of hunger across the country, 9 million are age 50 and older. The report also showed that Maine ranks number one out of all the New England states in terms of food insecurity.
Yet, there is some good news! Maine is very lucky to have dedicated organizations whose mission it is to improve vulnerable residents’ access to programs and community services. Organizations such as Preble Street, The Good Shepherd Food Bank, Bread for the World and Maine Harvest for Hunger, to name a few, work tirelessly on behalf of those who face hunger and despair every day, all the while seeking long-term solutions to hunger in Maine.
Additionally, for a full year AARP Maine is working with a VISTA volunteer as a member of our team to support Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach and application assistance projects for older adults in Maine. SNAP (or Food Supplement Program as it is called in Maine) is the only nutrition assistance program available to most people 50-59. Despite their economic vulnerabilities, only 56% of people 50-59 (and just 33% of people 60+) who are eligible for SNAP benefits are enrolled in the program nationwide. If you think you know someone who might be eligible for SNAP, please call 1-800-442-6003 or go to www.aarp.org/snap for more information.
Hunger is a reality, but if we recognize the role each of us can play in addressing it, we can make a big difference where help is needed the most: right here at home.
Photo: Jane Margesson