May 22, 2023
Throughout May, we recognize and support older adults during Older Americans Month. Older adults, defined as someone over 60 years old, make up a large portion of our nation’s capital, as well as a large portion of those experiencing food insecurity and utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. According to the Food Research & Action Center, the District of Columbia has one of the highest rates of older adult food insecurity in the nation, with 12.8 percent of older adults experiencing food insecurity. Almost 22,000 of the District’s older adults participate in SNAP (around 16 percent of all SNAP participants).
Food insecurity for older adults often looks different compared to other groups. Older adults are likely to have a fixed, predetermined income such as Social Security retirement, disability, and other supplemental benefits. This may affect their ability to buy healthy, high-quality food, which can create or perpetuate negative health conditions. Because of this, negative health conditions can be both a cause and result of food insecurity.
Older adult food insecurity, as with food insecurity for other age groups, is disproportionately experienced by people who find themselves at the intersection of marginalized identities, such as race, gender, and class. Black residents make up 62.5 percent of the older adult residents in the District, and they face significantly higher rates of food insecurity than their White counterparts as a result of historical and structural racism. Additionally, grandfamilies and kinship families experience higher rates of hunger.
Social supports like SNAP, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for grandfamilies, Social Security, and locally–implemented programs, such as community dining sites and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, are crucial for older adult health and security. We must continue to hold these programs accountable for being equitable to match the need of those experiencing hunger at disproportionate rates.
Supporting Older Adults Through Local Legislation
The D.C. Council recently passed three bills that would increase local support for older adults — the No Senior Hungry Omnibus Amendment Act, the Senior Nutrition, Health, and Well-Being Equity Amendment Act of 2022, and the Give SNAP a Raise Amendment Act.
The No Senior Hungry Act is a major step in addressing food insecurity for the thousands of older adults in the District whose hunger needs are not being met. This act will ensure older adults are connected with the services and programs they need. The Senior Nutrition, Health, and Well-Being Equity Act requires the Department of Aging and Community Living to improve nutrition, health, and well-being programming and to work to connect older adults with housing, health care, food, and any other resources needed.
The Give SNAP a Raise Act would promote food security for the more than 141,000 District residents participating in SNAP, especially for older adults, by providing a locally-funded supplemental SNAP benefit. Older adults were among the hardest hit by the end of the SNAP Emergency Allotments in March, with some households’ monthly benefits decreasing by over $250. We applaud the D.C. Council for passing the No Senior Hungry Act and the Give SNAP a Raise Act, which would help support older adults in the District, and we urge the Mayor’s office and D.C. Council to fully fund these pieces of legislation.
Another meaningful step in addressing food insecurity and removing barriers to access for older adults is the District’s Elderly Simplified Application Project waiver for SNAP. When it is fully implemented, this project will extend SNAP recertification periods for older adults from 24 months to 36 months, create a simplified SNAP application for older adults, and implement a standard medical deduction. These aspects will work to make SNAP benefits more accessible to older adults, reduce administrative burdens, and simplify the process.
While these initiatives are steps in the right direction, we know that there is still plenty of work to do to ensure that older adults have access to healthy, affordable food. D.C. Hunger Solutions will continue to advocate for legislation and programs to support older adults and provide direct service to older adults looking for food assistance.
For more information about SNAP, WIC, or additional food resources, contact D.C. Hunger Solutions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via phone at 202-640-1088.