Hunger and food insecurity among senior citizens has emerged as an issue in the District and D.C. Council member Anita Bonds has sponsored legislation to address the problem.
On Sept. 19, Bonds, along with Council members Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), introduced the Senior Nutrition and Well Being Equity Amendment Act of 2022.
The bill would amend the District of Columbia Act on the Aging Amendment of 1988 by mandating the Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL) to improve the implementation of nutrition and overall senior well-being programming and to seek ways to improve the quality of life for seniors, according to a letter from Bonds to the secretary of council.
Bonds has sponsored her legislation as the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger reported the city has nearly 120,000 seniors who currently face food insecurity. The Foundation said D.C., at 20.1%, has the highest rate of seniors facing the threat of hunger in the nation. In addition, the District has one of the highest rates of seniors living in poverty when compared with other states.
More than 15,000 seniors, about 15% of older District residents, now live in poverty while thousands more struggle to cover housing and medical costs and to pay for food on a fixed income, the Foundation reported.
Bonds’ bill also includes requiring DACL to distribute routine mailers and to establish an advisory task force that would provide recommendations to the department on how to better address the nutritional needs of seniors. Bonds noted that senior hunger increased during the pandemic largely due to physical isolation. She said her bill would provide clarity to the DACL regarding senior hunger.
“In October 2021, a No Senior Hungry Omnibus bill was introduced that required several District agencies to implement various aspects of the [District of Columbia Act on Aging] legislation,” Bonds said. “However, because of its complexity and challenges in obtaining a fiscal impact, this new legislation aims to address the needs of the senior community relating to hunger and overall well-being by tasking the department to make improvements through collaborative and data-driven methods.”
Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) said she recognizes the significance of Bonds’ bill.
“It is incredibly important that our seniors are taken care of,” Henderson said. “Seniors are affected by high inflation and high prices. This is why I have legislation raising the benefits for SNAP recipients in the city. We must do everything we can to help our seniors and that includes supporting aging in place.”
LaMonika Jones, an anti-hunger program analyst for the Food Research & Action Center, said food insecurity for District seniors exists for several reasons.
“Many seniors have problems with transportation, getting to full-service grocery stores,” Jones said. “A lot of seniors live in neighborhoods that don’t have access to nutritious food markets. Some seniors live in isolation from their neighbors. The Senior Nutrition Act would make sure seniors have the tools they need to go shopping, help with meal preparation and make sure that no one goes hungry.”