This blog, which focuses on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is FRAC’s final installment of a three-part blog series on food insecurity among older adults in recognition of Older Americans Month.
SNAP Misses Millions of Eligible Older Adults
SNAP, formerly – and often still – known as food stamps, provides monthly benefits to eligible low-income people to purchase food. Given the harmful impacts of food insecurity on health and well-being, it is critical that health care providers, community-based organizations, and public agencies connect older adults to SNAP.
Research shows SNAP can help alleviate poverty and food insecurity as well as improve diet and physical and mental health.
SNAP serves about 4.4 million households with individuals aged 60 or older each month. However, SNAP misses millions of other eligible older adults: only 42 percent of eligible older adults participate in SNAP, a considerably lower rate than for most other eligible groups.
Older adults report a number of barriers to enrolling in SNAP, including feeling stigma about receiving federal food assistance, not knowing they are eligible, and believing they would only qualify for a low benefit amount.
Successful education, outreach, and application assistance efforts can increase SNAP participation among older adults. Also, there are special SNAP rules to help adults age 60 and older access benefits. To learn more, download FRAC’s Combating Food Insecurity: Tools for Helping Older Adults Access SNAP.
Health Care Providers Can Help Close the Senior SNAP Gap
Health care providers across the country are stepping up by screening patients for food insecurity; patients who screen positive are then connected to SNAP, which is available in every community across the country. Providers also can refer eligible patients to a range of other federal and local food and nutrition resources, including congregate meals, home-delivered meals, food banks, and medically tailored meals.
To help more health providers address food insecurity, FRAC and the AARP Foundation are collaborating on developing an online course to provide health care providers and other community-based practitioners with information on how to screen patients 50 and older for food insecurity and connect patients who screen positive for food insecurity to food and nutrition resources. If you would like more information on the course, contact Heather Hartline-Grafton.