Op-Ed | How the COVID-19 pandemic made seniors more food insecure than ever before

Thanksgiving’s typically a time for generations of household to return collectively, eat their favourite household meals, and spend some high quality time collectively. However for a lot of, this time of 12 months is a painful reminder of the isolation they face and the food insecurity they battle with. The truth is, one in eight older New Yorkers are not sure the place their subsequent meal will come from. 

The pandemic shined a light-weight on the actuality of senior isolation, a lot of whom additionally face a scarcity of normal entry to food. We will and should do more as a society to combat this pervasive difficulty, particularly round the holidays. 

Food insecurity is a rising difficulty in New York and the United States that notably afflicts low revenue people and seniors. Throughout the US, 7.3 million older adults are battling dependable entry to nutritious food. Older adults of colour, in addition to older adults with disabilities, are 3 times as prone to be food insecure.

There’s a confirmed array of unfavorable bodily and psychological well being outcomes that seniors face as a consequence of food insecurity. Food insecure seniors have been more prone to have melancholy (262%), bronchial asthma (78%), diabetes (74%), and congestive coronary heart failure (71%), additional including to their well being struggles.

Throughout New York, older adults are sometimes missed as considered one of our metropolis’s most susceptible teams, inflicting wanted applications to be underfunded which means older New Yorkers don’t get the sources they want.

Since the onset of COVID, the financial fallout, and lack of federal monetary response, funding shortages have been seen throughout the board in several sectors amongst the nonprofit group. That is particularly evident in food pantries, soup kitchens, and cellular pantries. They’ve had the greatest blow with 35% of their doorways closing after the pandemic hit. 

New York have to be a metropolis that allows older adults to age with dignity and function. Which means long-term funding in applications that feed our seniors and most susceptible, like Citymeals on Wheels, Foodbank for NYC, NYC Basis for Senior Residents, Encore Neighborhood Providers, NY Widespread Pantry, and more.

The pandemic has solely heightened the urgency to behave. Already dealing with food insecurity and isolation, the pandemic exacerbated each. Older adults who have been already homebound obtained even fewer guests and fewer entry to each their group and the assist of the outdoors world. For a lot of who have been beforehand in a position to assist themselves, the pandemic made it harmful to go away their houses to accumulate food, leaving them depending on others.

To assist deal with this difficulty amongst older adults in NYC, JASA, the go-to company serving older adults in NYC, has established programming that gives home-delivered meals to its residents. By this program, JASA offered over 1 million meals to New York seniors final 12 months alone. 

The quantity and operation itself is staggering and saves lives. However whereas food supply staff have at all times been skilled to watch for indicators of points and when to name 911, JASA’s supply workforce has taken on a more pronounced position of checking in and being the wellness lifeline for a lot of older adults, for whom the JASA employees are the solely folks they’ll work together with in-person.

For seniors who couldn’t and nonetheless can’t depart their houses as a consequence of the pandemic, the nutritious meals and the supply employees present a bridge to the outdoors world. The food offers them with the vitamins to outlive, the employees offers them a chance, typically the solely likelihood of their day, to converse with somebody. This isn’t only a chat to interrupt up the day, however it additionally helps their psychological well being and provides the employees an opportunity to make sure the older adults are protected and wholesome by observing any potential indicators of want. 

As older adults proceed to develop into a bigger share of our inhabitants, making certain our seniors have entry to nutritious, tasty food will stay a essential problem for New York Metropolis and the remainder of the nation. This vacation season, we should not overlook these remoted of their houses. Everybody can step up in serving to our most susceptible neighbors. Whether or not it’s donating food immediately or supporting meals applications, or simply checking in on older New Yorkers, we are able to be certain that this vacation season, everyone seems to be linked and nobody goes hungry.

Tania Collazo is the Director of the Queens Dwelling Delivered Meals Program and Chef Supervisor at JASA.

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