Local Leaders Tackle Senior Food Insecurity

hungry seniorsRepresentatives from a variety of local organizations are working together to alleviate food insecurity plaguing thousands of Orange County older adults.

Recent research conducted by the Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Central Florida (UCF) revealed 12% or 15,000 of Orange County’s 129,000 older adults (age 65 and up),  are food insecure.  This number is significant and expected to grow as the number of older adults increases, according to Diana Silvey, Winter Park Health Foundation Program Director for Older Adults.

Food insecurity is more consequential to older adults than other age groups since they often have one or more chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension, among others, the UCF report noted.  People diagnosed with these conditions should maintain a nutritious diet, yet they can’t when their food supply is uncertain.  In fact, food insecure older adults were more likely to report fair or poor physical health as compared with their food secure peers (56.2% vs. 37.1%).

Guided by this data, a group of stakeholders have met to identify a shared vision for the future.  It reads, “We see a food secure future for Orange County seniors.  Through a network of stakeholders who connect, collaborate and cooperate, we will provide nutritious food to improve health and enhance quality of life for seniors in our community.”  From this vision, four strategic themes have emerged:

  • Leadership

Establish a mutually beneficial support structure that will provide all stakeholders the opportunity to connect, collaborate and cooperate for the purpose of increasing senior food security in Orange County.

  •  Outreach, Access and Supply

Identify and connect every hungry senior with the nutrition he or she needs by increasing the supply of, and access to, healthy food through networks that either move food to seniors or move seniors to food.

  • Awareness and Education

Create advocacy for senior food security by: (1) increasing awareness of the community at large to the issue and its impact, (2) educating seniors and their families of the importance of proper nutrition and the available resources, and (3) mobilizing people to become advocates for seniors.

  • Innovation

Design, test and implement innovative solutions to overcome barriers that come between seniors and the nutritious food they need.

Stakeholders from a wide variety community organizations—among them AARP, MetroPlan Orlando,  Florida Hospital, Volunteers for Community Impact, the Winter Park Housing Authority, Rollins College, Walgreens, and many others—are meeting in teams to address each of these four themes.  This work is supported by a nine-month, $20,300 Collective Impact grant awarded to Second Harvest Food Bank by WPHF.