Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Hungry seniors

There’s been a lot of buzz about senior hunger in Arkansas. The state has won — for the third year in a row — the dubious honor of being No. 1 in the nation for hunger among seniors.

Adding insult to injury, the state Legislature cut $1 million this year from the budget for senior meals affecting both senior centers and Meals on Wheels. Did our legislators forget the first of the Corporal Works of Mercy — to feed the hungry? Cuts go into effect next month.

Couple that with an increase in requests for meals and a drop in federal subsidies for home-delivered and congregate-meal programs and the problem becomes massive.

Reductions in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food-stamp program, have further complicated the picture.

To counteract the cut by your legislators, some groups, including CareLink, the Area Agency on Aging for Central Arkansas, stepped up its fundraising efforts, garnering substantial amounts to supplement food pantries’ reserves, support the delivery of meals to homes and for congregate meals. The National Commission on Hunger held a public hearing in Little Rock last month highlighting the problem of hunger that many seniors face daily.

Luke Mattingly, CareLink’s CEO, said there that Meals on Wheels helps to deliver healthy meals to homebound seniors, allowing recipients to remain in their homes longer.

Also stepping up to help are the unsung volunteers who run the hundreds of food banks and soup kitchens in the state. One example is Jacksonville’s Fishnet Missions run by the unsung champion of the hungry, Dewey Sims. Many food pantries say they are having trouble keeping their pantries stocked, and some have closed.

If you know a hungry senior, encourage them to apply for SNAP. Their senior center can tell them how and help with the paperwork.

In the words of Tim Herr, the director of the Area Agency on Aging of West Central Arkansas, “Now the question is, what do we do about it? And the we try harder. We talk louder. We get our elected officials’ attention...We want hungry seniors fed.”