Preliminary results from a state-wide survey on food insecurity were released at the 2014 Florida Council on Aging Annual Conference earlier this month and revealed Florida’s food insecure senior population is approximately 10%, tracking closely with national figures for this population. This includes about 420,000 Floridians age 65 and older.
And the preliminary data from the survey, presented by Dr. James Wright, the Provost’s Distinguished Research Professor in the University of Central Florida’s Department of Sociology, also suggests older adults considered most food insecure in Florida are individuals in the 60-64 and 65-69 age groups.
Dr. Wright explained the survey was designed to collect data on Florida residents who are not currently participating in nutrition assistance programs. In these interviews, surveyors inquired about what factors, other than income, impacted their situation. For example, if access is an issue, they were asked if the underlying reason was grocery story proximity, limited mobility and/or transportation options, or cultural (meaning the store does not sell the food the family likes to eat). Survey questions were asked of 823 individuals throughout the state; people of all ages were interviewed.
Another key finding from the study indicates the proportion of people in the U.S. deemed food insecure is 15.9% vs. the Florida rate of 17.5%. Dr. Wright explained there are degrees of food insecurity including moderate and severe. Of the 15.9% of the U.S. population deemed food insecure, 11.4% are moderate and 4.5% severe. The numbers are higher in Florida with 12.3% deemed moderately food insecure and 5.2% severe.
Co-presenting with Dr. Wright at FCOA was Jennifer Sauer, Senior Research Advisor at AARP. She highlighted several programs in various states that have received funding from the AARP Foundation as part of their commitment to end senior hunger.
The need for data surfaced as conversations on the issue of senior hunger progressed following the Orlando Senior Hunger Summit held in June 2013, according to Diana Silvey, Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) Program Director. Through additional support from other funders, the data collection effort was broadened to provide info about all age groups in the state.
AARP was a major funder of the survey, as was the Florida Department of Agriculture. Other funders included the Senior Resource Alliance and the WPHF.
Additional oversampling within Orange County and 10 census tracts will provide the opportunity for in-depth analysis within WPHF’s communities of focus – Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville. Once these results are known, WPHF staff will work with community partners to identify potential solutions to address food insecurity among the populations WPHF serves.