The Impact of Hunger on Children and Older Adults

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* For a large share of Americans, the U.S. labor market no longer works as a reliable way to build a stable career and support their families. 

* This was true before the job losses of the current recession (as of October 2009, the country had 7.6 million fewer jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007). And unless there are structural changes in the economy, it will be true again once the recession has passed. 

* Down on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, where too many people who once had middle-income careers now reside, the real value of wages when adjusted for inflation has been declining for years.

* One in four jobs does not pay enough to lift a family of four out of poverty. The federal government tries to compensate low-wage workers through programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 

* Without this and other forms of assistance, many more working families would be struggling to put food on the table and pay for housing, utilities, health care, child care, transportation to and from work, and more. Many families are forced to survive by living under a mounting pile of debt.

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Child Hunger affects many aspects of children’s lives, from physical and mental development to emotional well-being. Below are some of the issues associated with childhood hunger. 

Health Risks Associated with Undernourishment 

Children from many poor families receives less than 70 percent of the recommended daily intake of major nutrients. This deficiency translates into increased risk for serious and costly health problems, including anemia, impaired cognitive development, and stunted growth. Children suffering from hunger or near hunger are also less likely to have access to sufficient medical care.

Behavioral and Social Development

Food insufficiency also hinders children’s social development. Studies show that child hunger may be linked to behavioral problems, delayed social development, anxiety, and other emotional problems.


For emotional, cognitive, and physical reasons, a hungry or undernourished child faces significant educational challenges. School attendance and academic performance both suffer due to student undernourishment. Food insufficiency—often caused by missed breakfast—diminishes a child’s ability to retain knowledge, concentrate, and develop language and math skills. 

Hunger Among Older Americas: Challenges and Consequences

Why should you be concerned about hunger among older Americans? Read below to learn about the challenges hungry seniors face and the impact of senior hunger on our nation. 

Poverty and Fixed Incomes 

Low-income and fixed-income older Americans are often hard-pressed to pay their bills. Many are frequently forced to limit their food intake to compensate for costs of housing, heat, and most especially medicine.

Older Americans in Rural Communities 

Compared with urban and suburban areas, rural communities have a larger proportion of residents who are senior citizens. Because of low population densities, affordable supermarkets may not be accessible, forcing older Americans to spend more money for less food in smaller markets and convenience stores. Isolation from food assistance programs and few transportation options can also limit access to food for seniors living in rural communities.

Low Participation in Food Assistance Programs 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most important component of our nation’s food safety net, yet only 30 percent of people age 60 and older who are eligible for SNAP benefits participate in the program. A cumbersome application process, misunderstanding about food assistance programs, a lack of access to government offices, and perceived stigma all limit senior access to food. Some federal food assistance programs that target older Americans are not available in all states, and many other programs have waiting lists due to insufficient funding. 

Impact on Health 

Hunger and undernourishment can impact the health of any person, but older Americans are particularly vulnerable. Good nutrition contributes substantially to the health, self-sufficiency, and quality of life for seniors. At the same time, older Americans are at greater risk for illnesses tied to poor nutrition, including deficiency diseases and impaired digestion. Impaired health caused by poor nutrition also impacts private- and public-sector healthcare costs.