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Community members “Come To The Table” To Impact Food Security for Older Adults

1 in 14 older adults in CT is Food Insecure.
Recognizing a growing trend related to food insecurity among older adults, The Age Well Community Council of Danbury and the United Way of Western CT hosted Summit II, Come To The Table: A Rare Opportunity to Impact Food Security For Older Adults on June 6, 2019. More than 100 older adults within Danbury and surrounding towns came together to spur change that would positively impact food security within the older adult demographic. Sponsored by The Carmen and Lucia Buck Foundation, adults and professionals who serve older adults from food pantries, area businesses, faith groups, hospital and health care providers, physician groups, and senior centers were all part of a discussion to lead to a change movement in order to increase awareness, access and advocate for food security among the older adult population.

According to the Food Insecurity and Obesity Incidence Across Connecticut Report, Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, 10.9% of older adults are currently food insecure in Danbury, with pockets of the city as high as 30%.

Food security exists when people, at all times, have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate food to maintain a healthy and active life. During a previous Age Well Community Council Summit, participants were asked about key issues they felt needed attention and change. “Food insecurity kept coming up as the number one issue,” said Marie Miszewski, CEO, Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut and Co-Chair of the Council. She went on to offer, “People are living longer, and may be outliving their savings. Another factor to food insecurity could be that any increase in pension or Social Security payment doesn’t accurately reflect the cost of living.”

“In Danbury, 50% of the population are living below the poverty level and are struggling to access food," said Cara Donovan, Food Policy Manager, United Way of Western CT. “The importance of service programs, food banks, and food pantries all working together is key to combating the issue.”

A candid video featuring Danbury residents helped focus the Summit and bring the food security issue front and center for Summit attendees. Video participant Paul T., a Danbury resident and senior center volunteer said, “Food insecurity can happen any time, whether a person has social security, a pension, or a 401K. I have social security and a good pension, but if I don’t budget right, especially during a 5-week month, I can be short and food is about the only thing I could really cut.”

Fran W. shared, “I worked until I was 66 and had it all figured out. Between my pensions and Social Security, I was going to be just fine. What I didn’t count on was that my rent was going up, my medical insurance was going to go up, not to mention gas and electric bills. Those things you have to pay. Last is food." She went on to say, "At first I didn’t think I needed anybody’s help. But I realized later that I did. And you’re not a failure because you didn’t plan properly. There’s no shame in it. We do the best we can.”

“We know that when a person is making these choices, it’s a vicious cycle,” said Jaime Foster, Summit Keynote and Senior Director of Community Partnerships and Programs, Connecticut Food Bank. “The Great Recession really hurt us...we have not returned to pre-recession numbers of food security yet.” She urged community groups and those working directly with seniors to collaborate and work together to ensure everyone knows what programs they are entitled to and what they need. She went on to suggest screening for nutritional risks to determine whether people have access to healthy food.

“Food security among older adults is a growing issue of concern throughout Connecticut,” said June Renzulli, Senior Program Officer for the Carmen and Lucia Buck Foundation, the Summit’s lead sponsor. “Collectively, we have a responsibility to raise greater awareness of the issue, provide opportunities for access and work to demystify the topic in our communities. We invited people to come out and discuss the topic and we are grateful that they went well beyond ‘discussion’ to generating actionable ideas to address change.”

The Age Well Council is a collaboration of representatives from government, business, philanthropy, nonprofit and community organizations dedicated to a community where people can age in relevant and meaningful ways. A lead initiative of the council is their informational resource website, Age Well CT, which offers resources that promote healthy aging.

At Connecticut Community Care, we aim to provide strategic guidance and operational support to the Age Well Council, in order to help achieve its mission and goals.


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