Lorraine Dufour Lorraine is a freelance copywriter for Canadian eco-friendly small businesses.

Seniors’ Food Insecurity: 4 Ways Mobile Farmers’ Markets Can Ease This Growing Problem

7 min read

food insecurity among seniors; a close up image of an elderly woman's hands clasped together

The baby boomer generation is still booming in their golden years. And that’s great for the healthy older adults who can cover their healthcare and living costs.

But what about the five million Americans over age 65 who are living in poverty?1 And what about the seniors who live alone? It might not be so golden for them.

These are some of the most vulnerable citizens in our country. We can’t let the five million seniors over age 60 and living in food insecurity fall through the cracks.2 Otherwise, we face a healthcare crisis, and some would argue an economic crisis if we do.

Mobile farmers’ markets offer a unique and effective approach to helping seniors who are facing food insecurity. They mitigate some of the physical, psychological, and financial burdens that a lot of seniors face. The idea is simple really: to bring affordable healthy food right to where seniors live.

So, are you ready to improve the quality of life for seniors in your community? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of mobile farmers’ markets in dealing with seniors’ food insecurity.

Mobility & Transportation – Two of the Biggest Barriers to Food Access for Seniors

a street sign depicting two elderly people crossing the street with a sign below that reads "elderly people"; the mobility issue that seniors face; seniors and food insecurity

Poor mobility and lack of transportation are some of the biggest reasons why many seniors fall into food insecurity. It’s also one of the reasons why organizations use their mobile farmers’ markets to target seniors’ residences and communities.

Most of us have the luxury of being able to hop in our cars and head to the store whenever we want. But of course, when we get older it gets harder and harder to get around. And that can be a result of several reasons.

Owning a vehicle is out of reach for a lot of seniors, let alone paying for gas – and who can afford gas these days anyways? For those that do own a vehicle and can still drive, many know that at some point they won’t be able to drive anymore.

For some, that loss of independence is devastating. What if they don’t have a family member who can help them out?

The Trouble With Public Transit

a city bus in a downtown core in the winter with snow falling lightly

Public transport, like taking a city bus, is an affordable option for seniors who don’t have their own vehicle. But for some, public transportation isn’t as safe, reliable, or accessible as it should be.3

Imagine being in your 70s, living on your own, and having to use a walker to get around. You have COPD so you need to carry a cumbersome oxygen tank with you. Plus you haven’t owned a car for several years now. 

Now imagine the easiest way for you to get groceries is by taking public transit. Picture having to maneuver that walker, oxygen tank, and now a bunch of grocery bags on and off a bus…Just getting to the closest grocery store and back home again becomes a monumental task.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for millions of Americans. But mobile markets offer seniors a much welcome break from the daunting task of having to make it to the grocery store and back safely.

A mobile farmers’ market does the hard work for the seniors, so they don’t have to. And that’s how it should be.

How Seniors on Social Assistance Can Benefit From Shopping at Mobile Farmers’ Markets

a senior citizen sitting in a wheel chair by an open window in a small, dark kitchen; seniors food insecurity

The majority of seniors are on a fixed budget. And for some of them, there’s hardly enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table. So what happens when there’s little money left for food?

Well, it means surviving on the cheapest food they can get. And that usually comes down to processed foods, which aren’t necessarily the healthiest.

Most seniors who live below the poverty line rely on social assistance programs as their main source of income. Thankfully SNAP is one such program that helps seniors dealing with food insecurity to access affordable food. 

But, the kicker is that three out of five eligible seniors aren’t even taking advantage of SNAP.4 For those that are forced to choose between healthy food and medication, using SNAP benefits could make a world of difference.

Mobile farmers’ markets are really good tools for getting lower-income seniors to eat healthy again.

Like in the San Francisco Bay Area where about twenty percent of the population is over age 65. The Fresh Approach Mobile Farmers’ Market saw an opportunity to help those seniors that rely on SNAP.

They offer a 50% discount on the fresh local produce that they sell to everyone who is a SNAP participant.5 Imagine the excitement and relief that lower-income seniors must feel when they realize that they can actually afford healthy food. 

As a mobile market operator, you can use a SNAP discount as a marketing tool to reach out to seniors in need. And who knows, it might even encourage more seniors struggling with food insecurity to enroll in SNAP.

They’ll be less likely to have to choose between putting food on their table and taking much-needed medication.

Reducing Seniors’ Social Isolation and Safeguarding Their Independence

A group of four seniors standing together, laughing and chatting outside on a sunny day. Smiling group of seniors.

Because mobile farmers’ markets are community-driven, they are amazing at bringing the community together.

For some seniors, simply attending a weekly farmers’ market, and seeing friendly, familiar faces could be their only regular social interaction. This is especially true for those who live alone, and who want to do so for as long as possible.

Since mobile markets are mainly run by community organizations, it’s a great way for them to “check-in” on local residents that they know are underprivileged. They can make sure they’re happy and healthy, and provide help if needed.

GoFarm in Colorado6 was so impressed at how their new mobile market seemed to naturally bring people together. As their older customers were waiting in line to buy some fresh produce, they were swapping recipes and sharing stories with each other.

Along with fresh veggies, they would all leave with big smiles. Some of them might have even made a new friend or two. Who knew that improving food access could be so much fun? (The Farmers’ Truck knows – that’s why we love what we do so much!)

Enabling seniors to stay happy and healthy for as long as possible is especially important these days. With an increasingly aging population in the US7, we need to find practical ways to keep seniors healthy and in their own homes. Otherwise, our healthcare system won’t be able to keep up.

Mobile farmers’ markets help ease the burden of healthy food access for seniors. This in part allows them to stay independent and in their homes longer. And the inclusive environment of mobile markets helps to reduce senior isolation.

Improving Seniors’ Mental & Physical Health With Food

a senior citizen is washing vegetables under running water in a sink. Bright, sunny kitchen as a backdrop

Of course, the biggest reason why mobile markets are so good at increasing food access is to make people healthier. And they can do this for both mind and body. Now, we’ve already mentioned the social benefits, but they can help in so many other ways too.

Cooking is like riding a bike. Once you’ve learned how to and you’ve nailed the basics, you’re good for life.

And so, it’s not that seniors can’t cook. It’s that some of them can’t access or afford the foods that they’ve been cooking their whole lives. But, if you can make food affordable and accessible, then you give them their independence back.

There’s no doubt that eating healthy and even the act of cooking can improve your mental health. Activities like cooking require a lot of brainpower, fine motor skills, and help to keep seniors’ minds sharp.8

Familiar smells and tastes bring back happy memories of family gatherings gone by. This can really help people living with dementia.9

Caregivers of those with dementia can encourage and help seniors to cook and bake again. These activities are beneficial for keeping all five of our senses intact and for easing the grip that dementia can have.

Dementia can cause people to feel anxious, depressed, and irritable.10 Along with stimulating the senses, which can be dulled or lost as a result of dementia, cooking and baking can improve their moods and increase relaxation.11

It’s a practical form of therapy that you can encourage and remind people of when you visit seniors’ residences. Not to mention that homemade meals are usually healthier than store-bought or restaurant meals.

How Urban Farms Are Using Mobile Markets to Help Seniors Facing Food Insecurity

a large, colorful community garden with apartment buildings in the background

Mobile farmers’ markets offer seniors a chance to buy the freshest produce available. That’s because they can offer them local produce that’s been picked at its peak. For example, it’s one of the ways that urban farms can have a positive impact on the local senior population. 

And the West Sacramento Urban Farms’ mobile market does just that. They use their mobile market to sell their fresh produce at seniors’ housing complexes in the area. For a lot of the residents, it’s the only fresh produce they have the chance to buy. 

As four out of every five seniors already have at least one chronic disease12, improving nutrition however you can is vital.

Proper nutrition is the first step in reducing the shocking rate of chronic disease in our country. And it’s also a practical measure in preventing chronic conditions from getting worse – which is something that many seniors can’t afford.

Mobile Farmers’ Markets: On the Frontlines of Food Insecurity

a display of radish bunches for sale

Seniors, especially those experiencing food insecurity, are some of our most vulnerable citizens. And because seniors will make up more and more of the population in the coming years13, we need to find solutions now.

Keeping seniors in their homes for as long as possible is not only better for the individual, but it’s also a win for the healthcare system. 87% of seniors want to stay in their own homes14, and they’ll be much healthier and happier if they can do just that.

Mobile farmers’ markets make it far easier for seniors to get the nutritious foods that they need to maintain their health.  By making it physically easier for seniors to buy healthy food, you’ve removed one of their biggest barriers to food access.

Non-profits that operate mobile markets find that they’re very popular among seniors. There are always big lineups whenever they visit seniors’ housing complexes.15

The mental, physical, and financial benefits that mobile markets offer make it a smart way to help out the seniors in your community. Cooking demos and nutrition education offer even more ways for mobile markets to connect with community members and help meet their needs.

So, if you’re looking to find an impactful way to tackle food insecurity among seniors, a mobile farmers’ market is just the ticket. Seniors shouldn’t have to go far to get healthy food – instead, bring it straight to them. 

Check out The Farmers’ Truck brochure today to get the lowdown on the best mobile market truck around.

Resources:

  1. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R45791.pdf
  2. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2021-08/2021%20-%20State%20of%20Senior%20Hunger%20in%202019_Executive%20Summary.pdf
  3. https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2019/1/17/making-public-transit-work-for-seniors
  4. https://www.ncoa.org/article/7-facts-about-older-adults-and-snap
  5. https://www.freshapproach.org/mobilemarket/
  6. https://www.gofarm.org/mobilemarket
  7. https://www.statista.com/statistics/457822/share-of-old-age-population-in-the-total-us-population/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862744/
  9. https://www.brainandlife.org/articles/after-a-diagnosis-of-alzheimers-disease-a-renowned-cookbook-author/#:~:text=Buettner%2C%20PhD%2C%20former%20professor%20of,older%20adults%2C%22%20says%20Fitzsimmons.
  10. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324516#seeing-a-doctor
  11. https://briacommunities.ca/blogs/benefits-cooking-for-seniors-with-dementia/ 
  12. https://www.ncoa.org/article/the-top-10-most-common-chronic-conditions-in-older-adults
  13. https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-the-2020-census-will-reveal-about-america-stagnating-growth-an-aging-population-and-youthful-diversity/
  14. https://www.businessinsider.com/aging-population-healthcare
  15. https://fb.watch/c63v5hCZ4S/
Lorraine Dufour Lorraine is a freelance copywriter for Canadian eco-friendly small businesses.

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