Every year just after Labor Day, we like to give our grandparents their day in the sun by celebrating their lives on Grandparents Day. The celebrations range from special meals to family gatherings, to fun times at the movie theater, but not all are able to enjoy the jubilant occasion.
Sadly, instead of being recognized and supported, many of our seniors are turning to the streets just to survive, and we can't let that happen. Just last week I met Don, a 78 year old senior citizen on an Alabama interstate exit ramp. He was trying to hustle up enough money just to buy dinner. It absolutely broke my heart seeing this older American having to beg just to get through the day. American Senior Alliance was founded upon the premise to help our seniors keep their hard earned dollars in their pockets. We strive to prevent a situation like this, and in the 21st century, we should be beyond our seniors having to scrap in the streets just to cobble enough change to enjoy a warm meal.
According to Feeding America, the rate of hunger among those 60 and older has increased 45% since 2001, affecting close to 5 million seniors. At the current rate, food insecurity among seniors is expected to grow to 8 million by the year 2050.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports 10.2 million Americans face the threat of hunger, representing 15.8% of older adults who are 60 plus in the United States. Many of our older Americans who live in the south are more likely to be food insecure. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas represent 9 out of the 10 states with the highest senior food insecurity. The overall consensus seems to be that food insecurity is a national problem, but the major challenge is in rural America where household income suffers and higher unemployment is at the forefront.
The National Council on Aging are certainly doing great work to help prevent our senior citizens from going hungry with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) initiative. Thanks to the Walmart Foundation, NCOA has awarded 2 million in grant funding to community organizations to assist those 60 and older to enroll for SNAP. In addition to NCOA, Feeding America serves 7 million Americans 60 and over and another 6 million between the ages of 50 and 59.
In addition to our senior hunger challenges, a surprising statistic from the National Coalition for the Homeless shows the number of elderly homeless adults has increased across the country. The increased homelessness among the elderly is a result of poverty and the declining availability of affordable housing. Currently, there are 9 seniors waiting for every occupied elderly housing unit. With the excessive costs of food, medications and healthcare, the senior population is vulnerable to homelessness.
NCOA and Feeding America are continuing their amazing work helping care for our seniors who struggle to find their next meal. The National Coalition for the Homeless is working relentlessly to end homelessness across America.
To end these dreadful challenges our senior citizens face, it takes additional advocates and partners. This Grandparents Day, we must all begin stepping up our game with our time and resources to help so many of our older Americans who've played vital roles in their families, communities and jobs. A good many of those who are homeless are entitled to Social Security benefits, but with the high cost of housing those benefits don't go quite far enough. Let's not allow our elders to fall through the cracks. We owe it to them not to allow our seniors to become the forgotten population!