Partners Collaborate to Fund Florida Food Security Survey

Older AdultHunger—a growing issue getting increasing attention here and around Florida–will be the focus of a new statewide study.

The study is a collaborative effort supported by $45,000 in funding from AARP, $40,000 from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and a $5,312 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).

Local interest in the issue of hunger among older adults was kindled last June, when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and his Committee on Aging hosted a Summit on Senior Hunger. It included representatives from non-profit and faith-based organizations that help feed area older adults, as well as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and AARP. Attendees learned about the growing number of older adults living in Orlando and elsewhere in Florida who are food insecure and therefore, going hungry.  In fact, Florida is one of the top 10 states with the highest number of seniors facing the threat of hunger, with close to 700,000 seniors suffering from food insecurity.

In a follow-up meeting convened by Randy Hunt, CEO of the Senior Resource Alliance (SRA) and member of the WPHF Older Adults Work Group, participants identified the need for high-quality data to determine the extent and location of food insecurity in our communities and state. UCF proposed a statewide telephone survey and discussions continued to refine the survey tool and methodology, including sample size.

As part of the survey, UCF will complete 2,416 interviews with adults age 18 and older residing in Florida-at-large, in Orange County, in the City of Orlando, and in 10 select census tracts within the county.

Aside from establishing the basic frequencies of food insecurity and related issues, the study will also try to determine if  the problem is worse in urban than in suburban or rural areas, and if seniors, children, or various racial, ethnic or linguistic minorities are particularly vulnerable. It will also study whether the problem is simply a lack of money, or if issues of access, transportation, disability, and culture are involved.  It is assumed food insecurity is a result of low incomes (that assumption is built into the questions used to measure food insecurity), but this need not be the case.  People can experience food access issues because they don’t have proper transportation, lack social networks, and for many other reasons, many of which are expected to be particularly problematic for seniors.

The results are expected in July.  The data could have significant  impact on the many food-insecure people and families in our region and in the state; both through policy and programs, potentially benefiting thousands of Floridians, according to Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director.