Eat breakfast or fill a prescription? Buy groceries or pay utilities? One in 11 Americans ages 65 and older struggles against hunger, forced to make these decisions every month.
Fortunately, a new state law is helping to fight this harsh reality for thousands of Maryland residents, like Margaret and Ronald. For these two seniors, figuring out how to subsist with just $16 monthly help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – the minimum federal benefit – has been a real challenge.
Margaret is an 89-year-old widow living in Bethesda, who depends on SNAP to buy food. “When I was younger I worked as a secretary. I also spent many hours volunteering with my church to provide food for people who were homeless. Now here I am on the other side of the table.”
Ronald is formerly homeless but now lives in an apartment in Baltimore – his social security barely covers rent, utilities, medical bills, and part of his food budget.
The new law, which went into effect on October 1, supplements the minimum SNAP benefit so that no one 62 or older will receive less than $30 a month. This nearly doubles the current minimum of $16 a month and will make a big difference for Maryland seniors like Margaret and Ronald.
“I greatly appreciate the extra help that food stamps provide,” Ronald told the state legislature. “And going from $16 to $30 a month means I’ll be able to have some meat with my spaghetti.”
More than 17,000 Maryland seniors will benefit from this change. Advocates expect that additional seniors will enroll, feeling that the increased benefit makes going through the process more worthwhile. The change also is an investment in the health of Maryland’s lowest-income seniors, and an investment in Maryland’s poor communities. This is all the more reason to continue strengthening SNAP, not only for seniors, but for all low-income Maryland residents who cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families.
Those who struggle against hunger can attest that this is money well spent. Just ask Margaret and Ronald.