The needs of our bookend generations are acute. Nearly a fifth of our country's children (almost 16.7 million) live in households where they lack consistent access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life. About 4.5 million (one in 12) adults age 60 and older are now at risk of hunger or food insecure. Using an expanded measure, nearly 8.3 million (one in seven) older adults are, at times, anxious about whether they will have enough to eat. These disturbing trends cannot be ignored in today's America.
Adequate nutrition helps children and youth concentrate in class, improves their memory and overall behavior, and leads to better health and fewer visits to the doctor. For older adults, access to good nutrition also improves memory, helps maintain healthy physical activity, and reduces the number of trips to the doctor. The benefits of good nutrition are clear. How can we ensure the most vulnerable among us are well nourished?
In thousands of communities, houses of worship, food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters play key roles in providing food assistance to needy children, youth, older adults and families. They bring people of all ages together to help their neighbors during times of hardship and alleviate a painful source of anxiety: where the next meal is coming from. And, of course, a function of the federal government is to address hunger.
Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is in dire financial straits. The prospects of revenue increases and budget cuts threaten the economic stability of nutrition assistance programs and other critical social services. While Americans hope for serious and thoughtful nonpartisan deliberations on how to solve our fiscal problems, many of us fear the economy will not improve any time soon. Meanwhile, millions of vulnerable people depend on strong federal nutrition programs to put food on the table and help make ends meet.
To find out how Americans think we are doing to meet the nutritional needs of our younger and older family members, Generations United commissioned a nationwide survey conducted by Harris Interactive from September 24 to 26, 2012.