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Helping the Hungry Get the Food Assistance They Deserve

Why enrollment in SNAP is low and how to increase it.

An astonishing 6 million seniors are going hungry in the United States today, and nearly 40 percent of Americans aged 65+ live on less than $21,000 per year. The recession has slammed millions of older Americans into near poverty, as counted-on retirement funds have shrunk or disappeared.

Help is available, but most seniors aren't using it. Just one-third of older people eligible for SNAP, the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, receive benefits. Other age groups participate at roughly twice that rate.

Why do so few seniors apply? Many don't know it exists, or are too embarrassed or proud to ask for help — even though their taxes support it. To reduce hunger among seniors, we need to increase their participation in SNAP. That means raising their awareness and, even more important, reducing the stigma of asking for help.

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