STAMPS, AR (KSLA) - The state of Arkansas is number one when it comes to senior hunger and food insecurity, according to a joint report by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.
As if that's not bad enough, some say the problem could get worse, due to cuts in programs dedicated to feeding the elderly.
The Senior Citizens Center in Stamps delivers meals to seniors in Lafayette County. Those meals are important for the survival of people like 75-year-old Melba Willis, who receives a daily food delivery. "If I didn't have the meals, I wouldn't eat. I would just do without," Willis says.
Over the past 3 years, services like this have been drastically cut in Arkansas, according to the Executive Director of the area agency on aging. "Over the last 3 years, Region 7 in southwest Arkansas, we have taken over a $490,000 funding cut," Ruthie Langston says. "I have made everybody aware that I know to make aware that we are in a crisis in South Arkansas in feeding our seniors."
The Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Arkansas provides meals for the elderly at senior centers in 12 southwest Arkansas counties. Langston says the cuts are adding to the senior hunger problem. Last year, she says nearly 317,474 meals were provided to seniors, but this fiscal year, that number will drop to about 201,000.
Langston says they will continue to do what they can with the funds available to help the elderly receive at least one good meal a day.
For Lois Tatum, another senior citizen who depends on the program, it's they only way she'll get a hot meal. "You see, my hands shake, so I can't do a lot of cooking anymore, and then I don't have the strength because of my breathing."
Area residents can donate food to their county's senior citizen center to help keep the feeding program going at least at current levels. Langston also encourages concerned citizens to contact their state legislators about the situation.