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Hunger Beat

The faces of older adult food insecurity

Tomorrah Davis picking out produce at the Vivian Carter Apartments.
You don't have to go far to find Cook County older adults concerned where their next meal will come from.

“If it wasn’t for the Link card I don’t know what I would do because I need the food,” said Tomorrah Davis.  The 60-year old former seamstress is one of many residents of Vivian Carter Apartments, a senior housing complex on Chicago's South Side, who frequent a free market with food provided by the Greater Chicago Food Depository.   Tomorrah uses SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) benefits to purchase a lot of her food using a Link card, similar to ATM or bank cards.

“You just see the lines of people lining up at the markets and food giveaways.  People are hungry.  Everybody is insecure,” she said.  
An older adult picking out non-perishable food at a distribution market.
A new study released today, commissioned by the Food Depository, shows that Tomorrah is not alone.  Eighty-nine percent of federal food assistance for low-income adults in Chicago and 92 percent in suburban Cook County comes from SNAP.

Simply put, without SNAP benefits more than 180,000 low-income Cook County seniors would find it even more challenging to access food - a possibility as Congress considers cutting SNAP funding by $4.2 billion in the Senate's Farm Bill and by $33 billion in the House's proposed fiscal year 2013 budget.  Take action now:
Mary Amos is a market regular.
“At 87 years old I never thought I would make it this long,” said Mary Amos, who grew up in Mississippi and moved to Chicago with her husband around 60 years ago.  When he died in 1991, she said she started to struggle, so she signed up for SNAP benefits.

“I get food stamps.  Sixteen dollars is all they give me.  Doesn’t get much today,” she said.  “Forty years ago that would get you a lot but not today.  When that runs out I get Meals on Wheels and come to the [older adult] market.”

Stomach issues force Mary to eat a strict diet however the foods she needs aren't always affordable.

“Sometimes I eat what I shouldn’t because it is all I have and it upsets my stomach,” she said, "but sometimes when you got to eat, you got to eat.”
Louis Bulliner enjoys the fresh produce at the senior markets.
“It’s hard to understand the politicians,” said 72 year-old Louis Bulliner.
Born and raised in Chicago, Louis worked for the Chicago Park District and the Somerset House nursing home before it closed.  Since then he has had odd jobs but said it is hard to find work.  He depends on Social Security and SNAP to get by.  “It is not easy being old these days.  You have to stay in a prayerful mood,” he said.  “Being an older person is hard.” 

For more information about the Older Adult Nutrition Analysis Study and other food insecurity studies, go to the Research and Studies page at

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