IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Groups Say Hunger Plagues Older Arkansans

Many members of Arkansas' growing population of older people don't get the food they need because of transportation problems, confusion in filling out applications, a reluctance to ask for help, or a simple lack of money, according to participants in a conference on hunger.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Many members of Arkansas' growing population of older people don't get the food they need because of transportation problems, confusion in filling out applications, a reluctance to ask for help, or a simple lack of money, according to participants in a conference on hunger.

Many senior citizens spend much of their small incomes on prescription drugs and housing, Linda Netterville, a project director of Meals on Wheels Association of America, told the Arkansas Hunger Coalition on Wednesday.

"Nutrition is always the last on the list, and it's one of the most important because that's what's going to keep them healthy," Netterville said.

But other problems are also factors in keeping many older Arkansans from getting the nutrition they need, she said.

"Transportation is a major, major issue," Netterville said, "and it's going to have a tremendous effect on every aspect of the aging population."

The coalition addressed by Netterville is a statewide network of food pantries, soup kitchens and other groups that feed the needy.

Netterville said two-thirds of elderly people who qualify for food stamps don't apply for them. Many of them, she said, are confused by applications or are too proud to ask for help.

And Sister Maria Liebeck, outreach coordinator of The Helping Hand of Greater Little Rock, said many who receive food or food stamps find that they are stolen by family members.

"It's their own families that are their worst threat," she said.

Arma Woods, administrator for the Full Gospel Outreach Ministry food pantry at Hamburg, said about 40 percent of the 1,000 people served by that program each month are elderly.

"A lot of them are living alone, and they need someone to come and see about their needs," she said.