Many Seniors Aren't Taking Advantage Of Federally Funded Programs
Nutrition is at the core of good health. Not eating well, buying lesser quality food (fast food) rather than fresh fruits and vegetables or cutting back on food purchases because you are having difficulty paying other bills are all signs of food insecurity.
However, many seniors are not taking advantage of federally funded programs that are designed to ensure that no one in the U.S. goes hungry. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal entitlement program designed to ensure that all Americans have enough to eat and have access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are essential to maintaining good health.
Mary Ann Spanos
Across New York more than 1 million seniors could benefit from SNAP, but only half that number are currently enrolled. U.S. Census data shows that more than 8,000 seniors in Chautauqua County may be eligible for SNAP based on their reported income, but state reports show that only 2,636 people currently are receiving this assistance. Some reasons people do not apply is the feeling they are taking from others. SNAP is a federal entitlement program, so everyone who qualifies will get the program just like Medicare and Social Security. SNAP can be used not only to buy food at the grocery store but also to purchase seeds or plants for a vegetable garden, purchases at many farmers markets, and can be used for donations to meal programs that meet USDA standards like Meals on Wheels and OFA congregate meal programs. OFA even accepts SNAP benefits for the Senior Dining-Out Restaurant program.
Office for the Aging wants you to know that improvements to the SNAP program have made it easier than ever to apply, and applications are available through any of our offices, by calling the NY Connects Helpline, through Meals on Wheels, and many other organizations as well as the Department of Social Services. SNAP benefits range from $15 per month to $248 per month, but the average benefit for seniors is $144 per month.
Benefits do not have to be used all at once. Many people who receive the minimum amount save them up for several months and then use them. SNAP benefits are deposited into a debit card account each month. The SNAP debit card is carried in your wallet and swiped at the grocery store like any other debit card to withdraw your benefits. Places that do not have the card reader like some farmers markets and congregate meal sites simply record the card number on a special form and have you sign for the amount you wish to debit from your SNAP account.
The income guidelines for SNAP eligibility include a gross monthly income of less than $1,862 for a one-person household and $2,522 for two-person household, and this increases by $660 for each additional person in the home. In addition, some monthly out-of-pocket medical costs are deducted from your income, so even seniors who make more than these amounts may qualify. For example, Medicare and other insurance premiums, co-pays for prescriptions, medical supply costs and most medical related costs may be considered when determining SNAP benefits.
Seniors need to realize that not eating well is a serious threat to your health and independence. Many of the top chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hypertension, and high blood pressure can worsen if you are not getting proper nutrition. There may be close to 6,000 seniors in Chautauqua County who may be eligible for Supplement Nutrition Assistance. Call OFA/NY Connects helpline (753-4582, 661-7582, 363-4582) today to find out if you are eligible for SNAP.
A special thank you to Misha Marvel from Hunger Solutions New York for information contained in this article. For more information on New York nutrition programs, visit the Hunger Solutions New York website at hungersolutionsny.org. Remember, we are here to help you.