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Feeding the Hungry Should Be a SNAP

woman in her kitchen

Igor Novakovic/Getty Images

AARP California believes that no one—of any age—should go hungry. Yet many people must make the devastating choice to either pay for their medications or their groceries.

The struggling economy and cuts to state, county and city programs have resulted in an increasing number of families left to wonder where their next meal will come from. The lines at food banks across the nation are getting longer.

Of particular interest to the AARP Foundation is the impact this has on older Americans. There are an estimated 3.6 million people aged 65+ who live in poverty in the United States, according to a 2007 Census Bureau report, and millions of others who may qualify for Federal assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Federal Food Stamp Program), which can alleviate some of the worry and anxiety associated with how to pay for groceries each month.

For older adults with limited incomes, especially those who live alone; food assistance programs can help improve overall health. The healthier people are, the more likely they will be able to take care of their daily needs and live independently.

According to the USDA, in California only half of people who are eligible take advantage of the benefit. Nationally, only about 34 percent of eligible older Americans participate—leaving millions of dollars untouched. The most common reason people do not receive SNAP benefits is that they don’t realize they may be eligible. But recent program enhancements mean that more people may be eligible to apply.

People who are 60 or older may qualify for food assistance if:

  • Their net monthly income (after subtracting certain expenses, i.e., housing and medical costs, child care, and eldercare) is around $903 for a single person or around $1,214 for a married couple.
  • They have no more than $3,000 in countable resources, like a bank account.
  • They live in federally subsidized housing for the elderly even if they receive their meals at the facility.

Those who qualify for the benefit receive a debit-style card which is accepted at most grocery stores and there are no hidden fees. The average monthly benefit for older Americans is $72 for individuals and $90 per household.

SNAP can be a life changing value for individuals, families and communities, but only if the millions of qualified individuals apply for the benefit. Currently, only 9 percent of SNAP recipients are age 60+, however, a much larger number of the elderly population is potentially eligible.

While belts are tightening, there are still programs available to help. In these tough economic times, AARP remains staunchly committed to connecting those in need with information and access to programs that offer real relief and assistance.

To learn more about the SNAP program by phone, call toll free 877-847-FOOD.

AARP also has QuickLINK, an online tool to help apply for SNAP and other public benefits, via AARP’s Web site at See if you, a family member, neighbor or friend qualifies. Everyone should have the opportunity to eat right, even when money is scarce.