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Millions of older Americans are not receiving critical benefits

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Staff writer ▼ | May 19, 2016
older Americans
Senior SNAP Gap   SNAP benefit applications can be complex

More than one in 12 older Americans are food insecure. Many may have worked low-income jobs for most of their careers and were unable to save or plan for their post-retirement years.

Other seniors are retiring with fewer financial resources than they expected, due to the Great Recession. Additionally, many seniors have health issues that may require frequent and costly medical care.

Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, has joined with other national and local organizations to help strengthen food assistance for low-income, food-insecure seniors by closing the "Senior SNAP Gap."

Making ends meet on limited incomes is a challenge for many older Americans. According to Feeding America's study Hunger in America 2014, 63 percent of senior households who are receiving charitable food assistance reported that they must sometimes chose between paying for medical care or purchasing food, and 60 percent said that they must make trade-offs between paying for utilities or buying food.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is an essential resource for food-insecure seniors, yet only 41 percent (4 million) of eligible seniors are currently enrolled in the program.

The average SNAP benefit for a senior is $110 per month. This means that 5.2 million eligible seniors are missing out on approximately $572 million in annual SNAP benefits.

By comparison, 83 percent of all eligible people in the general population are enrolled in SNAP.

SNAP benefit applications can be complex and time consuming. Seniors must often travel long distances from their homes to enrollment sites, which is a barrier for many, particularly those with limited mobility and those without access to transportation.

SNAP application assistance is currently offered by 156 Feeding America Food banks, many of which have begun developing new and effective program models to enroll more seniors.

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