One out of every 11 Americans age 50 and older risks going hungry every single day. The federal government's former food stamp program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), can help. Yet just one-third of Americans 60 and over who qualify get help. Many are embarrassed to ask for help. Others don't know SNAP exists. And too many fear the bureaucracy itself, convinced that the time and effort it takes to apply aren't worth any benefits they would receive.
The hunger problem is particularly pervasive in the South, and Georgia is no exception. Among Georgians 50 and over whose annual income is under $22,000, 25 percent are threatened by hunger. Last fall, AARP Foundation and AARP Georgia decided to get the word out about SNAP in the Peach State, setting up a toll-free number people could call for SNAP information and application assistance. More than 75 AARP members volunteered to help.
To alert people, the Foundation and AARP GA put ads in community newspapers, church bulletins, and on radio stations. The message: You shouldn't have to choose what's more important, food or medicine. Call to learn how SNAP benefits could help you or someone you care about.
So far, more than 1,300 people 50 and over have called, and 75 percent have been found to be eligible for SNAP. In fact, to keep the phone lines from crashing, volunteers set up special SNAP events to help people in person.
One Octogenarian's Story
One of the hundreds the program has helped is Rose Harris, 82, of Roswell. Here's her story:
Rose never thought she'd have to ask for help buying food. She'd worked hard for many years to support herself, even taking on a second job when her husband left her in 1985. She retired in 1993, downsized to a two-bedroom condo and earned some money renting her extra bedroom to foreign students attending a nearby English language school. Rose figured she was set for life.
But then the school moved to the other side of town, no public transportation was available and the students stopped coming. Next, her first job's pension ended. Last October, her 401(k) from her second job ran out. All Rose had left was $662 in monthly Social Security benefits. After she paid her supplemental Medicare insurance and condo fees, she had $160 a month left.
Next: An AARP Foundation SNAP specialist helps Rose. >>