Senior citizens, often referred to as the hidden hungry, make up a sizable portion of Arlington Charities diverse clientele and require special considerations due to their age, physical handicaps, and dietary restrictions. Arlington Charities has been partnering with meals on wheels since 2016 to deliver meals to over 175 seniors who are physically unable to make it to our pantry. However, many of our seniors are unable to get out much or choose their own ingredients and relish in the ability to do so. In 2018, Arlington Charities partnered with handi-tran to shuttle seniors to our location so they can shop for groceries themselves.

Many seniors live on their own and deal with mobility issues, which inhibit their ability to do things such as go grocery shopping or hold employment. To complicate things further, around 1/3 of seniors do not have retirement savings or are in debt falling below the poverty line. More and more seniors are working to provide a source of income. As the majority of American’s remain in the workforce longer, competition for employment rises and salaries decrease. The changing knowledge requirements and physicality of the workforce also provide significant barriers for seniors. The fact remains that over 10 million seniors are food insecure and that number is rising.

Competing expenses and limited funds are huge factors of food insecurity in seniors. Chronic health problems are also more prevalent in seniors which draw a lot of expenses and energy. This is often coupled with rising rent and housing prices. When choosing between paying for Medicaid, rent, and food, it is often food that loses. However, lack of food can complicate health problems further. According to Feeding America, 60% of food insecure seniors are at a greater risk of depression, 53% are more likely to have a heart attack, and 40% report heart failure.

There are a variety of programs that can provide seniors with supplemental income, the most well-known being social security. Statistics from the Social Security Administration show that 60% of retired workers rely on social security for about half of the monthly income and 33% relying on social security for their full monthly income. The average monthly stipend for social security is $1,360 which can be hard to stretch across multiple expenses. The massive influx of baby boomers becoming seniors is also creating problems for social security. It is estimated that by 2022, social security will be paying out more than it generates in revenue. By 2034 social security stipends are expected to decrease by 23% to make up for loss of revenue streams and near complete exhaustion of its $3 trillion cushion. Other programs, such as SNAP, can add some supplemental income to cash strapped seniors. However, pride, ignorance, or simply not knowing how to sign up causes many seniors to forgo these programs.

Food insecurity in seniors is a complicated and often overlooked problem that can stem from a variety of factors. As with food insecurity in many demographics, competing expenses often cause food to be put on the back burner. Nonetheless, seniors are unique because they are prone to mobility issues, health problems, and dietary restrictions that hinder their ability to go grocery shopping or hold employment to pay for food. The rising number of seniors cause problems for stipend programs, such as social security, and other programs may prove complicated for seniors to enroll in. Addressing food insecurity in seniors requires a unique mindset that is able to work with any physical or cognitive limitations and make participation as easy as possible. Arlington Charities’ Senior Distribution Program is working hard to address these challenges.

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Christmas is a joyous time for some and a stressful time for others. Many people feel overwhelmed to feel happiness at a time where happiness is mass marketed, some are stressed by the prospect of seeing family, and others struggle to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. For low income or poverty stricken families these Christmas stressors hit much harder and Christmas can become an extreme financial burden. For some it may spell going without Christmas staples many take for granted such as a Christmas tree, decorations, holiday food, and gifts.

Gifts and toys reign supreme on Christmas and the pressure to find and afford the most popular gifts of the season can be daunting. Gallup reports estimate that in 2018 most adults will spend about $885 on Christmas gifts alone and other surveys indicate that Americans spend around $150 on Christmas dinner. Bank of America reports that in 2017 the Average American Consumer spent around $1, 143 on all combined holiday expenses. While different income brackets and preferences lead to different expenditures, there are no two ways to slice it, the holidays are a time of great expense.

Arlington Charities and other charities in the area work with low income families to provide them with food and toys for Christmas. Every year Arlington Charities collects donations of common holiday food items including canned vegetables, cranberries, stuffing, sparkling juice, pies, milk, ham, turkey, and ribs. We open for several days for families to pick out holiday items. We also collect donations of holiday clothing, toys, and gift cards to take a dent out of holiday shopping. In 2017 Arlington Charities provided holiday relief to over 754 families. It is no coincidence that so many charities are out in full force during the holiday season. You can help by looking into local charities near you and investigating what they are needing for the holiday season. As charitable drives and holiday donations are aplenty many charities may be short on hands and will be eternally grateful for any volunteers.

If you yourself are feeling the sting of the holiday season there are small things you can do to free up extra income or cut the stress off yourself. Consider having your guests contribute dishes to cut some of the cost off holiday meals. Prioritize your gift giving, if funds are tight maybe getting gifts for your coworkers or friends isn’t as much of a necessity as close family. Cut down on small expenses that build-up such as ride shares, streaming services, or eating out. Christmas is hard, but with some careful budgeting and planning, it doesn’t have to be as difficult.

Holiday stress hits everyone and that is why lending a helping hand as well as looking out for yourself is so important. Charities such as Arlington Charites are working overtime to ensure joyous holiday seasons for those in all income brackets. We are forever grateful to our volunteers and staff who assist us in our efforts. Remember that the holidays can get expensive and hectic so take care of yourself as well with careful budgeting and planning to relieve stress. Arlington Charities wishes you and yours a happy and stress free holiday.

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Food insecurity, defined as a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, is an issue that is generally intertwined with a household's financial situation. This problem is prevalent in 12.3% of US households according to the USDA. An overlooked breeder of food insecurity exists on college campuses. As the prices of enrollment, housing, textbooks, and other necessities balloon ever higher, many students attempt to cut expenditures in order to simply survive as a student. Tragically, one of the most common expenditures cut is food.

There have been a variety of studies conducted on food insecurity on college campuses such as the "Hunger on Campus" study and the Temple University Survey which estimate that around 20-36% of students at two-year and four-year universities experience food insecurity. However, limitations in sample size and the lack of a national study leads researchers to believe that the actual percentage could be much higher. Food insecurity on college campuses is a multi-faceted problem that stems not only from rising college expenses but a lack of college awareness of the problem and conventional help.

While loan programs like FAFSA do subsidize the entire college plan, including room and board, tuition, and food, paying them off is a hearty goal. It is estimated that student loan debt nationwide is around 1.4 trillion. Competitive scholarships are geared toward academic and extracurricular performances rather than need. Most glaringly, there is a lack of options for reduced price or free food for low-income families or individuals. Students who were relying on free or reduced priced food in public school are often out of luck in a college environment. For many low-income children, free public-school meals were the one meal of the day they could count on being fed or receiving adequate nutrition.

Numerous food insecure students also face financial strain in a number of other areas. According to the "Hunger on Campus" study, 64% of food insecure students surveyed reported having problems paying for housing and 15% reported homelessness in some form whether utilizing a shelter or living in temporary situations with friends. The problem of homelessness is more prevalent at community colleges as opposed to four-year schools. Financially strained students also have problems purchasing required textbooks and as result may fall behind in their coursework.

Food insecurity and housing problems lead to performance deficits in both school and work. Both lack of food and lack of nutritionally rich foods lead to severe problems with memory and learning. In extreme cases, students report missing classes or having to drop classes altogether due to lack of food.

College is a massive workload already, but there are ways that financially strained students can supplement their income through part-time work. About 56% of surveyed food insecure students have part-time jobs and many more than one. Unfortunately, extra income is not always a cure for food insecurity as in college that income may be spread thin across a variety of other expenditures such as housing, laundry, and textbooks. When making a decision about what necessities to spend money on, food often takes a backseat.

Colleges can help food insecure students by acknowledging that there is a campus hunger problem and taking steps towards fixing it. Opening local food pantries up to college students or educating them about places they can go for help could help students recognize that there are solutions for them to take advantage of. Some colleges have started opening onsite pantries serving donated or day-old foods. Arlington Charities has actually recently opened a satellite pantry with Tarrant County College to address food insecurity at their campus. Lastly, colleges can alleviate some financial stress by offering flexibility in paying for or even opting out of their own meal plans. Many colleges still impose stringent guidelines requiring students to be on meal plans for a number of years as well as live in on-campus housing. Although financial aid does help cover these costs, paying them back still remains a problem, and there may well be cheaper off-campus options. Extending food stamp programs, such as SNAP, to apply to meal plans at college campuses would help alleviate some financial burdens and allow students who may have been relying on those programs to continue relying on them.

Food insecurity is a quiet problem on college campuses that is exacerbated by rising college expenditures and lack of adequate assistance programs. As many students feel a financial strain in a number of areas besides food, food is often the first cost to get cut. Food insecurity leads to poor academic performance, attendance issues, and dropouts. To combat the problem students can be educated on local programs that they can rely on for supplemental food. Colleges can also offer onsite pantry options and meal plan programs that accommodate reduced payment plans or food stamps. Lastly, recognizing and spreading the word about the problem helps keep attention on it. Donating or volunteering at your local charities and pantries helps them be able to combat food insecurity and other problems.

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