SIOUX FALLS, SD -
If you look closely, you can see Rebecca Fuller's eyes light up when she talks about her dog, Molly.
"I think my dog just helps me. It's like I have to care about somebody else," Fuller said.
Fuller's dog is a nice distraction from what can be a life full of challenges. She said she lives on a fixed income, and sometimes struggles to buy food. When you first meet Fuller, you will notice a youthful appearance that may not resemble stereotypical senior citizen. But at age 56, she fits the description.
"It's not a fun feeling at all. It'd be nice to just eat good meals at home and not have to worry so much about where the money comes from," Fuller said.
Fuller said she has a few medical problems, so doctors urge her to have a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and milk. Those products can be some of the most expensive items on a grocery list.
"It makes it pretty difficult because sometimes you can't get out and get some of the stuff. It just makes you feel kind of trapped," Fuller said.
According to AARP South Dakota, there are 50,000 people in the state, 50 and older, living below the poverty line, making them at risk for hunger. There is not one face for these senior citizens. Many of them, like Fuller, are from the baby boomer generation.
"We meet people who are living on a fixed income, possibly just on social security, which is something over half of our senior citizens in South Dakota rely on. Just that social security check to make ends meet," Sarah Jennings, State Director AARP SD, said.
Beyond South Dakota, there has been an 80-percent spike in senior citizens facing hunger nationwide.
"With prices going up for gas, for home utilities, for rent, and a lot of times people want to continue working, but they have a hard time finding a job. Put all that together and a senior citizen can face real challenges with meeting daily needs that force them to make tough choices," Jennings said.
Luckily, there are resources in the community, such as the Banquet in Sioux Falls, Fuller and other seniors can use when they need some extra help.
"We're dependable. Just want to have a nice normal life, or as close to it as possible," Fuller said.
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