In the United States, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, the continued effects of the economic recession, combined with the aging of our population, have made hunger among older adults an urgent matter. Nearly nine million people age 50 and over are threatened by hunger.
AARP Foundation is working to fight senior hunger and prevent older Americans from having to decide whether they can put food on the table or get their doctor’s prescriptions refilled.
Your donations help fight hunger by supporting the initiatives below.
Helping Eligible Seniors Apply for Food Assistance Through SNAP
At- risk older people don’t have to rely only on local food banks for their food. They can take advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offered by the federal government. But for many reasons, including fear, shame and just not knowing about it, only one-third of people 60+ who are eligible for SNAP actually receive it. Educating and enrolling older people in SNAP is one of the chief objectives of Drive to End Hunger. Last September, working with the AARP Georgia state office, AARP Foundation began a SNAP pilot program in the Atlanta area.
AARP Foundation and AARP Georgia recruited and trained 75 volunteers to staff a call center, where people could get help applying. We placed ads in community newspapers, church bulletins, and on five Atlanta 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.
Today, 13 months later, the phones are still ringing. More than 4,500 older Georgians have qualified for SNAP. The demand has been so great that volunteers now hold special events at libraries, senior centers and community organizations to help people apply for benefits.
Take the case of Roswell, Ga., resident Rose Harris, 82. She never thought she’d have to ask for help buying food. She retired in 1993, downsized to a two-bedroom condo, made some money renting the extra bedroom to foreign students attending a nearby English language school, and figured she was set for life.
But then the school moved to the other side of Atlanta and the students stopped coming. Next the pension from her first job ended. Last October, her 401(k) from her second job ran out. All she had left was $662 in monthly Social Security benefits. Once she paid for supplemental Medicare insurance and condo fees, she had $160 a month for everything else.
“When a friend suggested food stamps, I was horrified. I thought they were still the kind you pulled out of a little book and handed over to the cashier while everyone watched,” she said. But when she heard about one of the SNAP events nearby, she went. She was hungry, and not only for information.
There, she met AARP Foundation’s SNAP Program Specialist, Maria Najlis, who helped her apply. Once she received her electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card with her SNAP benefits, though, she was too nervous to use it. “I didn’t want anyone to think I was taking food money away from someone who really needed it, especially a child,” she says — a common misconception, especially among older people.
The manager of her local Publix taught her how to swipe the card and reassured her that many of her fellow customers relied on SNAP, too — it was nothing to be ashamed of. “My advice to anyone older who needs help is ‘Go for it!’ I’ve lived so long and tried to do the best I could. I’ve raised my children and I’ve always paid my taxes,” she says. “Now, SNAP makes my life better and keeps me healthier as I grow older. I am so grateful — I have no idea how I could live without it now,” she says.
Similar efforts have paid off across the country. In 2011, more than 26,000 people received public benefits screenings, applications and application assistance from AARP Foundation.
Drive to End Hunger
Since it roared to life at Daytona in February 2011, the Drive to End Hunger campaign has provided more than 13.2 million nutritious meals to hungry adults. AARP and AARP Foundation created Drive to End Hunger to raise awareness and funds to end hunger among older Americans. In February 2011, AARP became NASCAR's first cause-based primary sponsor with Drive to End Hunger featured on Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet. The effort raises the visibility of hunger while collecting cash and food donations in NASCAR race markets across the country.
The Drive to End Hunger momentum hasn’t slowed down at all. Through September 30, 2012, AARP Foundation had raised nearly $17 million and helped nearly 40 food banks across the nation through Drive to End Hunger. We’re going to be just as strong in 2013, too.
Also of interest: 2012 Hunger Grant Awards. >>