FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 25, 2013

 Contact: Chaunda Ball, 917-859-0029, cball@aarp.org

 AARP Releases New Policy Recommendations to Help Estimated 70% Likely Eligible Capital Area Older Adults Not Receiving Food Assistance 

70% of Likely Eligible Adults 60+ Capital Region not Receiving SNAP Benefit; Older Adults Face Multiple Barriers to Accessing Help

SCHENECTADY, NY – AARP New York joined with Hunger Solutions New York, the Schenectady Inner City Ministry, and the Empire Justice Center today to release new recommendations aimed at helping the estimated 70 percent of Capital District older adults who may be eligible but are not receiving nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP and formerly called Food Stamps).

The recommend policy changes outlined in the association’s second white paper on older adult hunger encourage New York State to simplify and streamline the SNAP application process for those over 60, use data-driven strategies to identify potentially eligible individuals, and increase the benefit amount by implementing a standard medical deduction for seniors with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Despite the large numbers of older adults who face food insecurity, it is estimated that 70 percent in the Capital Region and 50 percent of those in New York State who may be eligible SNAP are not receiving the benefit, which is identified as one of the most effective ways to reduce hunger.

Nearly 500,000 New Yorkers age 60+ receive SNAP benefits, allowing them to maintain good health and nutrition, yet according to census data, an additional 500,000 older New Yorkers could potentially be eligible. 

While SNAP is identified as one of the most effect ways to reduce hunger, increasing participation in the benefit can also be a boost to local economies.  Every $5 used in SNAP benefits adds $9 to the economy.

“Bringing an end to hunger among 50+ New Yorkers is one of the top priorities for AARP New York and the AARP Foundation,” said Erin Mitchell, Associate State Director for AARP New York.  “By implementing these recommendations to increase SNAP participation, we can help the many people 50 and older who face unimaginable choices like paying for groceries or keeping the lights on.”

The number of Americans age 50 and older facing the risk of hunger increased by nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2009, totaling nearly 9 million, according to the AARP Foundation.  In New York State, nearly one in four adults over the age of 60 and living at home is considered nutritionally at risk, and in the Albany area, 14 percent of households without children struggle with hunger.

“Access to healthy food is vitally important in the fight against hunger among older New Yorkers,” said Linda Bopp, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York.  “SNAP has a positive impact on the health and well-being of this vulnerable population, and we stand by AARP in their efforts to alleviate hunger for all older adults.”

Some of the barriers preventing higher participation in SNAP among older New Yorkers are the stigma associated with accepting assistance, a fear of the application process, and lack of awareness of the benefit and its eligibility requirements. 

“In our experience, seniors do not avail themselves of needed food resources, especially the Food Stamp program, now SNAP,” said Reverend Philip Grigsby, Executive Director of Schenectady Inner City Ministry.  “Yet we also know from others that attendance is declining at congregate meal sites.  We welcome this initiative to address the myths and stereotypes that keep people from applying, as well as the policy measures that will broaden participation.  It helps individuals in need and helps our communities.”

 “It is critical that we break down the barriers that prevent older adults from accessing SNAP benefits,” said Cathy Roberts, a senior paralegal with the Empire Justice Center.  “Many seniors are on fixed incomes.  They rely on programs like HEAP to help with high heating bills, and Part D ‘Extra Help’ and EPIC, so they can afford their prescriptions.  SNAP can help them save money on their grocery bills and allow them to put nutritious food on the table.”

 The recommendations in the report were formed through discussions among hunger stakeholders attending a year-long series of regional roundtables held around the state, which culminated in a statewide summit in Albany in 2012 convened by AARP New York in partnership with Hunger Solutions New York and with the support of the AARP Foundation.     

Recommendations from a 2011 AARP New York and AARP Foundation white paper were successfully implemented, including changing the official name of federal food assistance from Food Stamps to SNAP, eliminating the finger imaging requirement for applicants, and increasing SNAP outreach funding by $1 million.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

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