"It's a debit card, easy to use and looks like a credit card," she said. "That goes a long way for a senior who thinks they have to take out stamps at the register and feels embarrassed."
She said many people also don't realize they're eligible and that the income threshold may be higher than they thought. For instance, a two-person household with an elderly or disabled person and an annual income of $29,424 qualifies. Still others may not know that for people 60 and older, medical expenses in excess of $35 a month are deductible from income for establishing food stamp eligibility.
"Many seniors think they'll go through the process and only get [the] minimum amount of $16 a month," Deska said. "In fact, households with a person 60 or older get an average amount of $144 a month."
Since 2010, AARP New York has been part of a coalition of more than 100 groups working to boost food stamp enrollment. For starters, AARP wants the state to change the name of the program from the New York State Food Stamp Program to its federal name, SNAP.
AARP New York is also working to streamline the application process. For instance, most recipients currently need to be recertified yearly; AARP New York would like to make that once every two years.
To get the word out, AARP New York staff and volunteers have helped with enrollment at New York City senior centers; mailed information to people who may be eligible; and will host educational events in various New York City neighborhoods this fall.
Winnie Yu is a writer living in Voorheesville, N.Y
Also of interest: Working to end hunger in America.