AARP and partners across the state and nation are working to address what has been a silent crisis in North Carolina called “food insecurity.” In the Tarheel state, nearly one-in-ten adults ages 50 and over are food insecure, in other words, at risk of going hungry.
That’s why AARP has been working with Drive to End Hunger, Stamp out Hunger, and other initiatives that will help put food on the table and feed residents of all ages.
One organization, the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, is taking some large steps. Guest blogger April Morgan, the organization’s Food and Nutrition Outreach Coordinator (photo), explains more about an important collective effort in the state:
The North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks (NCAFAFB) works with seven member food banks throughout the state to collectively address food hardship in all 100 counties in North Carolina. In addition to traditional food bank activities, the NCAFAFB promotes Food & Nutrition Services (FNS), more commonly known as food stamps or SNAP. FNS provides a stable, supplemental means for qualifying, low-income households to purchase food. The food banks’ FNS outreach is important during a time when more than two million North Carolinians experience food hardship. Since 2009, the food banks have assisted more than 5,800 low-income households with the FNS application.
In North Carolina, only 45% of eligible, low-income seniors (age 55 and over) receive FNS. Seniors who lack sufficient food are more likely to experience decreased quality of life, quicker onset of degenerative diseases, and intensification of acute chronic illnesses. Seniors who struggle with food hardship often choose between buying food or paying for other necessities, such as utilities and medicine. By participating in FNS, seniors are better able to meet their food needs and can free up money that can be used for other necessities.
Barriers to participation include pride, lack of transportation, misunderstandings about the program, and feelings of intimidation about the application process. Another common barrier to participation among seniors is the belief that the benefit amount will be too low. In North Carolina, the average FNS benefit amount for seniors is $96 per month. Seniors can increase their benefit amount by deducting medical expenses, such as prescription and over-the-counter medications, health insurance, medical supplies, eyeglasses, and travel to/from their doctors.
Once approved for FNS, seniors can purchase food from participating retailers. They can also purchase seeds and plant starters to grow their own food. Additionally, an increasing number of farmers’ markets accept FNS, which gives seniors access to fresh produce and supports local farmers. A true win-win!
If you know a senior who is struggling to put food on the table, please encourage them to apply. For more information, please visit fns4nc.org