Many factors contribute to food insecurity and hunger,* among them:

  1. Poverty due to chronic illness, disability, lack of education and job opportunities, low fixed income (Social Security, limited pension)
  2. Low Wages and Unemployment
  3. High Housing Costs
  4. Rising Cost of Food, Energy and other living expenses
  5. Unexpected crises that wipe out financial resources

* Hunger in the United States is measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as low or very low food security, that is, “food insecurity.”  Food insecurity is the inability to consistently access adequate amounts of nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.  Any degree of food insecurity can lead to malnutrition and chronic hunger, which threaten a person’s health.  In the case of the seriously ill or the very young or very old, chronic hunger can even threaten one’s life.



For a family living just above the poverty line, unexpected events such as paying for emergency hospital care, a major car repair or the loss of a job can push them into poverty.  When a family is that close to the edge, the budget will be adjusted by consuming smaller quantities of less expensive food, which usually does not meet all their nutritional needs.

Among all U.S. workers, 25 percent earned a poverty level hourly wage in 2005. (Economic Policy Institute, 2008


Elderly and Hunger


Seniors who experience food insecurity or hunger are at risk for serious health problems. 

Hunger increases their risk for stroke and exacerbates pre-existing health problems. Hunger in seniors may limit the effectiveness of many prescription drugs and may affect brain chemistry in a way that increases the incidence of depression.

For seniors, protecting oneself from food insecurity and hunger is more difficult than for the general population. 

A study that focused on the experience of food insecurity among the elderly population found that food insecure seniors sometimes had enough money to purchase food, but did not have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations, or health problems.* 


* ”Understanding the Experience of Food Insecurity by Elders Suggests Ways to Improve Its Measurement,” The Journal of Nutrition, September 2003