Food Insecurity Is a Symptom of Deeper Issues

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Happy New Year! I am looking forward to a new year filled with much health and happiness for all. This holiday, I’ve been blessed with many things: The love of family and friends, the security of a warm, safe home and plenty of food on the table. It’s hard to fathom that people in our community – maybe even people living next door – are going to bed hungry.

Food insecurity is real, and it’s impacting people of all ages and even all income levels. Like many, I used to think people didn’t have enough to eat because they couldn’t afford groceries, but food insecurity is a symptom of deeper issues.

Recently I was talking to a colleague about the nonprofit Indy Hunger Network, where I’m honored to be chairman of the board this year. I got involved a couple of years ago, because at CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, we see firsthand how many seniors are struggling with food insecurity.

How food insecurity affects seniors

My colleague shared with me that her elderly father is food insecure. He has the means to buy food, but he no longer can drive. He doesn’t cook – that’s something his late wife did. He doesn’t have an appetite, so he doesn’t eat unless someone eats with him, but he lives alone. It’s impacting his physical and mental health. Unfortunately, his story is not unique.

We know from various research that seniors who don’t have a proper diet may have accelerated declines in their health and cognitive function. Not having enough nutrients can lead to chronic diseases.

Addressing the root issues of food insecurity

Providing gap meals like our friends at Second Helpings and Gleaners do is necessary and important, but it’s not going to eradicate the problem.

One of my goals for Indy Hunger Network is to look deeper into why people are food insecure and then work together to help overcome those challenges. We’re positioned to do that because of our collaborative framework. Indy Hunger Network includes more than a dozen nonprofits: Society of St. Andrew, Second Helpings, Casteel Grace Care Center, Gleaners, Patachou Foundation, Elanco, Meals on Wheels/Partners in Nutrition, City of Indianapolis, Bread for the World, Division of Family Resources, Corteva Agriscience, Indiana University, Midwest Food Bank, Society of St. Vincent and CICOA.

COVID was a real wake up call for us because the need for food was at historic highs, and it shined a spotlight on some of the core issues families are facing.

It’s partly because of access. Too many people live in food deserts without access to fresh produce. People lack transportation even to get to a grocery store. But the list goes on.

It’s also because of inequities in education, in lack of training that would allow someone to move into higher paying jobs. It became apparent during the pandemic that we have too many families living one paycheck away from the poverty line.

It’s also because of medications and mental health and a host of other challenges. At CICOA, we often find that if a senior receiving home-delivered meals lives in a multi-generational household, others in the household also need meals.

With increasing rents and increasing costs of just about everything, I am concerned more people are going to suffer from food insecurity. Our pantries and delivered meals are doing great things to help, but it’s not solving the core problems.

Collaborating across Central Indiana to fight hunger

Indy Hunger Network is committed to understanding the root causes and then connecting people to other services that may help, such as workforce development to build skills that improve career opportunities. It may mean looking at ways to increase transportation for those who don’t drive and aren’t able to utilize public transportation. It will include asking more questions to better understand the challenges.

We need to take a holistic approach to well-being. That’s something we’ve done for many years at CICOA for older adults and people with disabilities, and it’s something we’re going to do more of at the Indy Hunger Network. Because no one in our community should go to bed hungry.

For seniors who face challenges accessing food and eating properly, home-delivered meals can be a lifesaver. Your gift now can provide immediate meals to Central Indiana seniors as we work to solve the root causes of food insecurity.

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