Vt. seniors at high risk for hunger

Observer staff

A report released recently by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Service shows that 42.2 million Americans lived in households struggling with food insecurity in 2015.

In Vermont, there was improvement in overall food insecurity numbers, however rates of food insecurity among seniors got worse since the 2014 report, according to a release by Hunger Free Vermont on Sept. 8.

The organization noted that it’s work to improve food programs for children throughout the year and a stabilizing economy have helped to strengthen the “nutrition safety net,” and resulted in Vermont’s food insecurity numbers moving from 1 in 8 being food insecure in 2014 to now just 1 in 10 Vermonters experiencing food insecurity.

The report defines food insecurity as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”

While the positive trend is an upshot, “We are very concerned with the fact that we are seeing an increase in senior hunger, which was already an underserved population,” Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont, said.

The USDA report showed that senior food insecurity has increased from 7.93 percent to 8.17 percent in Vermont. Parissa attributed that to factors ranging from geographical boundaries to social norms.

“Seniors are often isolated in Vermont, living on fixed incomes and [are] particularly averse to the perceived stigma around receiving 3SquaresVT benefits,” she said. “We have been focusing on this population for years and this report tells us we still have our work cut out for us.”

Children’s food insecurity numbers in the state fared better, with 2014 numbers dropping from 16.55 percent to 13.82 percent in 2015. Hunger Free Vermont attributes these improvements to the significant accomplishments in growing school and out-of-school time meal participation in recent years.

“Child nutrition programs are getting stronger every year and we are thrilled by the upward trend,” Parisi said. “That said, we still have 1 in 7 children who regularly have to worry about how they will get the food they need. Even one child in Vermont experiencing this is an injustice.”

The full report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, can be found at