Published: Oct 26, 2011 8:43 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 26, 2011 9:28 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Startling statistics show seniors in Southwest Florida are going hungry. Thousands of elderly people need help from emergency food pantries every month. Looking at their faces, their reality is tough to swallow.

These senior citizens are among the 3,000 in Lee County who are going hungry. Many times, they're faced with a tough decision when it comes to feeding themselves.

After their bills are paid, people like Birdie Wicks say they rely on cafeterias or help from emergency food pantries.

"So you have $32 a month to spend on food. How do you stretch that? Well there's a lot of food pantries I go to," Wicks said.

According to experts, the elderly are the fastest growing community who face a hunger problem.

Kristina Rodriguez from Senior Friendship Centers says the issue is attributed to people living longer, out lasting their savings and the cost of living going up.

"It's growing rapidly. We've seen a 25 percent increase," Rodriguez said. Rodriguez helped organize Wednesday's hunger summit.

The goal is to come up with a list of strategies to solve the problem.

"We need the community support...the hearts, the hands, the talent," Rodrigues said.

Ideas included creating a mobile food pantry, educating the elderly about food stamps and budgets.