Drew University Study Measures Food Insecurity Among Morris County Seniors
In partnership with the Interfaith Food Pantry & Resource Center (IFPRC) and the County of Morris, Division of Aging, Disabilities and Community Programming, a team of students from Drew University recently concluded a study on senior hunger and food insecurity in Morris County. Under the supervision of Professor Patrick McGuinn, Ph.D., students studying Social Policy and Inequality visited the County’s 14 Senior Nutrition Centers to conduct surveys designed to identify and analyze hunger and food insecurity among the seniors visiting those sites.
Of the 211 senior participants surveyed, 16% had indicated they had either run out of food or had been concerned about running out of food before receiving more money. 22% had indicated they had skipped a meal or ate less in order to save money.
“The students were surprised to discover how many seniors lacked access to a regular source of nutritious food and the varied reasons for their food insecurity”, said McGuinn. “In addition to economic factors, many cited transportation issues, distance to grocers, and a lack of awareness about resources available to them such as SNAP or local food pantries. It was an eye opener to see the challenges many of our seniors face; even something as simple as the inability to carry their groceries can be a barrier to obtaining the food they need.”
The data collected by McGuinn’s class was supplemented with a demographic analysis of economic security among older adults by Drew’s Advanced Geographic Information Systems under Professor Lisa Jordan. The students created a spatial analysis to map areas of the county that had high rates of economic insecurity based on Census, ALICE1 and Elder Index2 data.
The data indicates that more than 35,000 seniors, or 43% are living below the Elder Index, with the highest rates in Parsippany, Dover, Morristown, Montville, Florham Park, Morris Township, Madison, Mt. Olive, Randolph and Pequannock.
“This information is invaluable to us as we strategically direct our efforts to reach those that are aging in place and lack access to the food resources they need”, said Carolyn Lake, Executive Director of the IFPRC. “We have a number of Mobile programs designed to bring food and services to our seniors such as home delivery, our Senior Food Box program, and a supplementary program for Meals-on-Wheels recipients that we run in partnership with the County of Morris, Division of Aging. The information gleaned from these reports will help us dig deeper to evaluate the needs of each community and close the food security gaps where they exist.”