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Senior populations are often left out of the conversation around hunger and food insecurity. In fact, hunger and food security are widespread problems amongst this vulnerable group. In 2019, Feeding America estimated that 7.1% of all seniors aged 60 and over faced hunger—in total, that amounts to about 5.2 million individuals.


Food insecurity among senior populations can be caused by a variety of factors. In addition to poverty and other social determinants, chronic disease has been linked to food insecurity as both a cause and a symptom. Some older adults simply lack access to reliable transportation, or suffer from a disability that prevents them from shopping for their own food.

For seniors experiencing food insecurity or hunger, the meal programs offered by nonprofit organizations such as Spectrum Community Services, a local Meals on Wheels provider, are invaluable. Aside from providing seniors with fresh, nutritious food to which they might not otherwise have access, these meal services have a variety of other physical, social, and emotional benefits:



  • Reduced risk of disease and health problems. Seniors who have insufficient or poor-quality food are at a higher risk for conditions such as malnutrition, depression, lower cognitive function, osteoporosis, heart disease, and more. Food insecurity can even increase the risk of falls for senior individuals, which can cause fatal injuries.
  • Human connection. Many seniors who suffer from food insecurity are also socially isolated, a state that comes with its own set of negative impacts on the physical and mental health of seniors. Individuals who participate in the meal programs offered by senior centers are able to take advantage of the opportunity for socialization and activity in addition to getting a healthy lunch. For seniors who are homebound, even the brief interaction of opening the door to receive meal delivery services can be a significant bright spot in their day.
  • Alleviated financial pressure. Sadly, elderly people who struggle with food insecurity due to poverty may have to make difficult decisions about what to do with their limited financial resources. For example, seniors who cannot afford food of adequate quantity or quality might be forced to choose between paying for food or essential prescription medications, or might take lower doses of their medication in order to make it last longer. By providing food at reduced or no cost, meal programs for seniors help to relieve some of those difficult financial decisions.


Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance, outreach programs, and services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Visit our website for more information on our senior nutrition programs, for both homebound and active seniors, or to download a copy of our energy assistance application.