It’s the holiday season and many of us are planning parties and festive holiday meals. But for many in our nation, the holidays are not so festive, especially for those struggling just to put food on the table. Every day, nearly 9 million older adults age 50 and over are at risk for hunger. To help, End Hunger Connecticut! and AARP Foundation are continuing their partnership to help end senior hunger this fall, by hosting free infosessions at senior centers, leading town hall meetings and distributing educational materials at libraries and physicians’ offices. The organizations also are building upon a successful direct mail campaign launched earlier in 2013 to connect food insecure seniors to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A second mailing began hitting the households of about 50,000 older adults in late October.
“There are a number of barriers impacting older adults usage of SNAP,” Lucy Nolan, Executive Director, End Hunger Connecticut!, said. “Through our partnership with AARP Foundation, we aim to educate more seniors about SNAP while helping them overcome the awareness and access barriers that prevent them from participating.”
The first mailing targeted 25,000 older adults across Connecticut to increase awareness of and participation in SNAP. As a result of the mailing, 1450 older adults were screened for SNAP benefits by End Hunger Connecticut! with 599 of those 1450 applying for SNAP benefits. To date, 39.5% have been granted SNAP benefits by the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS). Of note, 17% of the applicants came from Fairfield County, Conn. which was ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 as the 44th wealthiest county (out of 3,007 total counties) in the United States.
Persons eligible for SNAP in Connecticut must have a gross monthly income less than $1,723 for a one-person household and $2,333 for a two-person household.
“Hunger has been exacerbated by the long recession and slow recovery,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP Chief Operations Officer and former AARP Foundation president. “We believe that no older adult should go hungry. That’s why we will continue to help older Americans access the help they need to keep food on their tables and to keep from falling through the cracks.”
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports only 35% of eligible seniors participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). Nationally, food insecurity increased 38% among 50-59 year-olds from 2007-2009 according to the AARP Foundation Whitepaper SNAP Access Barriers Faced By Low-Income 50-59 Year-Olds. In Connecticut, 32% of all SNAP households have at least one member who is elderly or disabled.
In addition to its partnership with AARP Foundation to increase access to SNAP among seniors, End Hunger Connecticut! recently formed an Advisory Board on Nutrition for Older Adults. The Board, which includes representatives from anti-hunger and food security organizations, senior advocacy groups, service providers and senior wellness advocates, will serve as a catalyst for increasing seniors’ access to healthy foods among other vital services.
To learn more about End Hunger Connecticut!’s senior nutrition and SNAP initiatives, visit: www.endhungerct.org.
Since AARP and AARP Foundation launched Drive to End Hunger, the initiative has donated more than 27.1 million meals across America.
To learn more or to get involved, please visit www.DriveToEndHunger.org.