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Ohio

Fighting Hunger Right Here at Home

Six of 10 older residents who qualify for food assistance don't enroll

Older adults who qualify are also eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP benefits are loaded onto debit cards, which offer beneficiaries more dignity than the old paper stamp booklets.

SNAP benefits can be as little as $16 monthly for one person, but every little bit helps, and the money is carried over month to month until it is spent, said Tamara James, AARP Ohio community outreach director.

But in Ohio, 58 percent of the nearly 222,000 residents 60-plus who qualify for SNAP haven’t enrolled.

Older adults often balk at enrolling because they feel there are others more deserving, James said. "They say, 'Oh, I don't want to take money from a child.' But everyone who qualifies receives the benefit. The pool of funds expands to serve those in need."It helps for older adults to know that accepting SNAP money stimulates the economy, James said. Every $5 in SNAP money spent generates about $9 in economic activity, according to a USDA study.

AARP Ohio has been training volunteers around the state to help people apply for SNAP and other benefits such as the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

The volunteers go to senior centers, community centers, health fairs and other events where they help people fill out the applications online. Working with local Area Agencies on Aging, AARP holds luncheons where volunteers talk about benefits and help people apply.

If you are interested in volunteering, email ohvolunteers@aarp.org or visit createthegood.org to access a tool kit for organizing a food drive in your community.

See also: AARP resources on hunger and food insecurity. >>

Gayle Brown is a freelance writer living in Alexandria, Ky.