FRAC On the Move is a series in which we follow our policy and program experts as they connect with advocates across the country to explore strategies to end hunger.

In this installment, we hear from Director of Special Projects and Initiatives Alex Ashbrook. Follow #FRACOnTheMove  for our latest whereabouts.

Tell us about your trip!
I attended the National Senior Center Conference in Philadelphia recently to explore the ways FRAC can improve senior centers’ capacity to address food insecurity, cater to seniors’ unique needs, and advocate for solutions to end senior hunger.

“How can we help older adults navigate longer lives and be healthier, happier, and more engaged in their community?” asked James Firman, the president and CEO of the National Council on Aging in his opening statement. The question remained paramount throughout the entire event.

Achieving this goal, in part, means ensuring that no older American experiences food insecurity and that each American senior has regular access to healthy meals.

What were the key takeaways?
Senior hunger is an important and prevalent issue for senior centers — over 8.8 million Americans 65 or older face the threat of hunger, according to the most recent research.

Philabundance and the Food Bank of South Jersey presented compelling data demonstrating the mental and physical consequences of senior hunger. For example, older Americans who are food insecure are more likely to experience depression, develop asthma, suffer from congestive heart failure, or have a heart attack.

Since not every senior knows when or from where their next meal will come, many senior centers are working to address food insecurity by:

  • participating in the Congregate Nutrition program and the Home-Delivered Nutrition Programs, with funding provided by the Older Americans Act;
  • connecting seniors to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through screenings, application assistance, or referrals to community partners; and
  • referring seniors to Meals on Wheels, food banks, food shelves, or where available, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the innovative ways senior centers are reaching out to older Americans, working to improve their health and well-being. It also inspired ideas for how FRAC can partner with centers to help food-insecure seniors.

What is FRAC doing to address senior hunger?
FRAC’s work, alongside organizations such as the National Council on Aging and the AARP Foundation, is focused on educating and collaborating with organizations to reduce senior food insecurity, particularly by increasing SNAP participation among seniors.

SNAP serves as a lifeline for roughly 3.6 million older Americans struggling against hunger and poverty and is widely considered our nation’s most important defense against hunger.

Sadly, millions of eligible seniors do not benefit from SNAP. Among the reasons for this, many may not know that they even qualify for the program, or if they do, they are unsure about how to apply. Seniors may also feel overwhelmed by the application process, or feel a stigma about receiving federal food assistance.

To help address these barriers, FRAC has collaborated with the AARP Foundation on a toolkit, Combating Food Insecurity: Tools for Helping Older Adults Access SNAP. From fact sheets to outreach planning and messaging suggestions, the toolkit provides valuable resources for advocates to craft successful programs to fight hunger and increase SNAP participation among older Americans.