As “grandfamilies” become more common, seniors face new challenges

Wanda Graves and great grandson in car

After raising their children and four grandchildren, Wanda and her husband never expected to raise another child, but when their great-grandson needed a home, they couldn’t turn him away.


“The thought of what would happen if he wasn’t with us is very scary,” Wanda said.

Wanda and her family are among the growing number of multi-generational households in the U.S. — often known as “grandfamilies.” According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, one in five Americans lived in one of these homes. This family structure can yield many benefits, but studies from the Feeding America National Organization have found that seniors who reside with their grandchildren are more than twice as likely to be food insecure than seniors who don’t.

Seniors rarely expect to raise their grandchildren when planning for retirement, so the many expenses a child brings can make it tough to afford enough food. In any situation, children are often shielded from food insecurity by the adults in their home. Seniors like Wanda ensure the children they are raising have enough to eat — sometimes at the expense of their own dietary needs as they stretch already-limited financial resources.

Some grandparents raising grandkids don’t qualify for government support, even though they’re spending income differently than their peers. This is true for Wanda, so she attends Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Pantries near her home in Lake County every month. At these food distributions, she receives plenty of fresh produce and other food.


“We don’t get any help raising him, and that makes things really tight for us,” Wanda said. “So every little bit helps.”

Vegetables are her great-grandson’s favorite. “He’ll eat any vegetable there is!” she said.

In addition to attending Mobile Pantries, Wanda also gardens and cans to help feed her family. One of her favorite hobbies is researching her ancestry and taking photos of local graves to share with long-distance relatives. Even her great-grandson helps find the right graves when she takes him to the graveyard!

Seniors face a wide range of challenges, whether they’re raising a grandchild or not. The food bank is honored to support Wanda as she does all she can to ensure her great-grandson has the food he needs to thrive.

Donate today to help families like Wanda’s.