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Hunger Among Americans 50-Plus Spikes 80 Percent, New Study Says (SLIDESHOW)

First Posted: 08/30/11 04:59 PM ET   Updated: 10/30/11 06:12 AM ET

Hunger among Americans 50 and older has jumped almost 80 percent since 2001.

More than 9 percent of older Americans were at risk for hunger in 2009, according to a research study from the University of Kentucky, commissioned by the AARP Foundation.

"Food Insecurity among Older Adults" is the first report to examine the youngest of the baby boomers -- those between the ages of 50 and 59. This group faces the unusual challenge of being too young for Social Security and Medicare and too old for aid that's allotted for people with children.

"For the first time, we have a fuller picture of hunger risk among all Americans 50-plus," said AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins in a press release. "But sadly, it's far more bleak than before."

The slumping economy has played a major role in the spike. In 2009, 4.9 million in this age group were at risk for hunger, a 38 percent increase from two years earlier.

The risk among African-Americans and Hispanics in the same age group was twice that of white people over the years studied.

Though the risk is on the rise, this is the first year in his administration that President Obama didn't propose additional funding for nutrition programs for older Americans. He kept funding flat for fiscal year 2012, according to the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Program.

Enid Borden, Meals on Wheels CEO and HuffPost blogger, has long called on the government to support hunger programs. Due to budget cuts, her organization has had to slash the number of meals it can provide those in need.

"Is America failing our nation's seniors?" Borden asked. "The statistics would say the answer is yes."

Approximately 50 percent of all health concerns affecting older Americans are related to a lack of nutrients, according to Borden. But it's preventable, she points out, saying that the cost of providing meals for hungry seniors is roughly the same as a one-day hospital stay.

Click the slideshow below to see which states have the highest hunger rate among people 50-plus:

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Filed by Jessica Prois  |