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AARP Volunteers Fight Senior Hunger in NYC

NYC Hunger Free pic
Denise Downing (AARP Volunteer), Christine Deska (AARP), Dorothy Owens (AARP Volunteer), Karol Markosky (CSCS)

Recently, at our AARP New York Office, we recognized our core volunteer group who over the course of several months has spent countless hours  on the phone following up with seniors throughout New York City who have reached out for food assistance.

They are patient, committed and compassionate toward both the older adults they’ve helped and the sensitive and personal topic of hunger. Often, seniors that answer are lonely and really appreciate that someone has called to check on them and see if they received the assistance they needed.

I feel privileged to manage AARP New York’s older adult hunger projects. I was amazed to learn that that one in four older adults in New York who live at home is at risk of hunger. That’s 25 percent! And when you couple that with the fact that only half of older New Yorkers who are eligible for SNAP (formerly called food stamps) are receiving it, I have to wonder why seniors are struggling when there’s some relief available to so many.

Denise Downing, one of our treasured AARP volunteers, has worked on the NYC Hunger Free Project for the past two years. Denise has joined AARP, the Council of Senior Centers and Services, and the NYC Department for the Aging at senior centers throughout New York City to screen seniors for SNAP.

See what Denise has to say about her experience, as you may have a different perspective about why hunger isn’t such an elusive struggle for seniors in New York.

These are just a few of the barriers that exist between seniors and food assistance:

  • Many seniors think that by getting help from a program like SNAP they’re taking away from someone else in need. That’s FALSE.
  • Many seniors are ashamed to ask for help. But as more seniors’ incomes remain constant and other expenses go up, it’s hard to make ends meet. Seniors shouldn’t have to choose between paying for prescriptions and paying for food.
  • Many seniors think that if they own their own home, they won’t be eligible. That’s FALSE. For people 60+, eligibility is all about income vs. expenses. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, then you should get screened for SNAP. Things like medical expenses can be deducted from your income when determining SNAP eligibility.

If you know someone who is having trouble paying for food, they can visit the NYC Hunger Free website or call 1-855-692-4322 for a SNAP screening over the phone.

Christine Deska has worked at AARP for seven years. Her focus is older adult hunger, older worker issues and AARP’s local member offerings throughout New York State.
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