August 24, 2012

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 July cuts over $16billion from SNAP. These cuts, if enacted, would cause two to three million individuals to lose their food assistance entirely. An additional 500,000 households would have their SNAP benefits cut by an average $90 per month.

"For many seniors living on fixed incomes, SNAP is a lifeline. Far too many of our nation's elderly are having to choose between putting food on the table and other household necessities," said Vicki Escarra , 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.
  • Nearly 16 percent of SNAP households include seniors.
  • Only 34 percent of eligible seniors participate in SNAP, in part due to program stigma and participation barriers.[i] 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.
  • 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.
  • Changing demographics will have a profound impact on the need for nutrition assistance among older adults. By 2020, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase by 36 percent over 2010, and the number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50 percent by 2025.
  • Senior SNAP households are disproportionately likely to see their benefits cut under proposed SNAP cuts. Elderly households are more likely to make use of the"Heat and Eat" policy when enrolling in SNAP and thus are disproportionately impacted by the policy change. Additionally,"Heat and Eat" states have a greater share of SNAP households with seniors to begin with. In the 15"Heat and Eat" states (CT, DC, DE, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, & WI), 18.8 percent of households include an elderly person, compared to about 15.5 percent of households nationally.[ii]

[i] Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Years 2002-2009. U.S. Department of Agriculture. August 2011.

[ii] Feeding America estimates using U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2010. Table B.5. September 2011.


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