Senior hunger is a prevalent issue in Dallas County, one that leaders in the local anti-hunger community are finally beginning to take a real stand against. One of the ways that leaders in the Dallas region engage in ending senior hunger is through the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions.
The Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions (DCHS) was created in 2012, chaired by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and spearheaded by the Texas Hunger Initiative, the North Texas Food Bank, and several other nonprofits and religious organizations that make up the leadership team. Through five different action teams, we bring together community leaders who are engaged in the work of addressing poverty and hunger to take action together in a collaborative setting.
The five action teams cover issues such as child hunger, urban agriculture, the faith community, neighborhood organizing and senior hunger. The Senior Hunger Action Team meets monthly at The Senior Source, which is the go-to nonprofit in Dallas that assists and connects older adults to resources in our community. Chaired by Katie Dickinson, the associate executive director of The Senior Source, the team is currently in the middle of a strategic planning process as it takes steps to ensure that all older adults in Dallas have access to nutritious food.
We began this process by mapping the landscape of senior hunger in Dallas. In Dallas County, 9 percent of seniors (which comes out to 21, 277) live in poverty. Our local Meals on Wheels, which is run by the Visiting Nurses Association, serves 4,000 meals per day, and 76 percent of their clients are over 60 years old. In Dallas County alone, 19, 534 seniors are eligible for SNAP, but do not receive it. That means that 57 percent of eligible seniors are not receiving SNAP.
The next step we took in our process was to identify barriers that seniors in Dallas County are facing and the resources that the experts on our team identified to that can help break down those barriers. Many of the barriers keeping seniors from accessing SNAP center on awareness. For example, many seniors seem to believe that if they apply for SNAP benefits, they might be taking benefits away from people whom they perceive to need it more.
Clearly, there is a great need in Dallas for change when it comes to how we approach senior hunger. Our next steps will be to define our most important goals, and finally to outline strategies toward reaching those goals. We are still a relatively new team, and as we take these steps toward helping seniors in our community we are excited to learn from one another and the community around us.
This post was written and contributed to the blog by Charlotte Johnson, Communications Coordinator for the Texas Hunger Initiative – Dallas.