June 18, 2013

Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization, today warned that pending cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) will put many of our nation's seniors at risk of hunger.

The farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee in May cuts $21billion from SNAP. These cuts, if enacted, would cause two million individuals to lose their food assistance entirely. An additional 850,000 households would have their SNAP benefits cut by an average $90 per month.[i]

"For many seniors living on fixed incomes, SNAP is a lifeline. Far too many of our nation's elderly are being forced to choose between putting food on the table and other household necessities," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America."Seniors have given us the America that we have today, we owe it to them to make sure that they have enough resources to fill their pantries and their prescriptions."

SNAP is a crucial safety net for low-income seniors, who often are at greater risk of food insecurity:

  • SNAP households with seniors receive an average per person benefit of only $111 per month, or $1.23 per person per meal. This meager benefit level underscores the importance of protecting SNAP benefits from cuts.[ii]
  • Over 16 percent of SNAP households include seniors.[iii]
  • Only 35 percent of eligible seniors participate in SNAP, in part due to program stigma and participation barriers.[iv] Increasing duplication and administrative burden in the enrollment and eligibility determination process will further dampen participation rates.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity among older adults can have serious health consequences. Food insecure seniors are more likely to have lower intakes of major vitamins, significantly more likely to be in poor or fair health, and more likely to have limitations in activities of daily living.[v]
  • Low-income seniors on fixed incomes must sometimes make difficult choices between important necessities. Among Feeding America food bank client households with seniors, 30 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for medical care. Additionally, 35 percent reported choosing between food and utilities, and 26 percent reported choosing between food and gas for a car.[vi]
  • Changing demographics will have a profound impact on the need for nutrition assistance among older adults. By 2040, there will be about 80 million older persons – more than double the number of seniors in 2000.[vii].

[i] Estimates based on Congressional Budget Office score of 2013 House farm bill.

[ii] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2011. Table 3.3. November 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/SNAPPartHH.htm

[iii] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2011. Table A.14. November 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/SNAPPartHH.htm

[iv] Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2010. Table 3. USDA. December 2012 http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/Participation/Trends2010.pdf

[v] Ziliak, James & Craig Gundersen. The Causes, Consequences and Future of Senior Hunger in America. University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research and Iowa State University: 2008. http://www.mowaa.org/document.doc?id=13

[vi] Cohen, Rhonda & James Mabli, Frank Potter & Zhanyun Zhao. Hunger in America 2010. Feeding America. January 2010. Table 6.5.3. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/hunger-in-america/hunger-in-america-2010.html

[vii] A Profile of Older Americans: 2012. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging. February 2012. http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2012/3.aspx


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