Arkansas has the highest percentage of seniors, more than one in four at 25.44%, facing the threat of hunger among states in the US, according to the State of Senior Hunger in America 2012 report released by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) in May 2014.
Trends conveyed through Arkansas Foodbank agency monthly reports align with NFESH findings. In a comparison of seniors served in January 2010 and January 2014, the number of seniors 65 and older that our pantries served in that month grew from 5,582 to 12,815 seniors, an increase of 129.58%.
These numbers do not reflect seniors unaware of or unable to access food pantries in their communities, nor does it catch seniors aged 60-64 attending pantries, as prior reporting defined seniors as 65 instead of 60 years old.
Based on the 2014 Senior Hunger in Arkansas report by the Arkansas Division of Adult and Aging Services, 288,394 out of 589,712 Arkansas seniors 60 and older live in AF’s 33-county service area. Of those 288,394, based on the NFESH data that 25.44% of Arkansas seniors are at risk of hunger, we estimate that 73,367 seniors in our service area are at risk of going hungry.
Arkansas Foodbank is currently testing senior service strategies, including a list of senior-friendly food items, at our member agencies. We selected 14 senior service pilot sites located across 12 counties of our 33-county service area. The pantries are of varying sizes, serving from 25 seniors per month to over 200. Agencies signed up for strategies they felt fit the needs of their community, allowing us to test various combinations of strategies at once. The five focuses are outreach, pantry experience, accessibility/delivery, senior-friendly foods, and SNAP outreach. We will use what we learn during the pilot phase to develop a long term strategy to fight senior hunger in Arkansas.