Older Hoosiers aren’t signing up for federal food assistance programs, but many are going to local food banks for help each month. Statistics indicate 13 percent of Indiana’s food-bank clients are more than 60 years old. The National Council on Aging has an effort under way to close the “SNAP Gap.” More than 40 percent of seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have not applied, and the numbers are even lower in the Hoosier State. Emily Weikert Bryant of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry says many seniors aren’t getting healthy food they need because they just can’t afford it. She says 77 percent purchase cheaper, unhealthy food because it’s what they can afford. Additionally half are getting help from family and friends, and about a quarter of Hoosiers 60 and older are gardening or growing food in a community garden to offset their needs.
Weikert Bryant add a quarter of Indiana households have one family member who’s over 60, and many of those homes also have small children. The average senior SNAP benefit is $110 per month, which comes out to just over a dollar to spend per meal.
“A large number of them are also doing things like watering down their food or drink and 29 percent of older adults selling or pawning personal property. 46 percent are receiving help from friends,” she said.d
Many seniors face barriers because they don’t have a computer or transportation to sign up for benefits, and many think they aren’t eligible. Weikert Bryant says we should pitch in and help them.
“They’ve worked hard their entire careers, they’re in a position where they might need help, they’re most decidedly in a position where they’ve earned that help. So we want to make sure that they have that nutrition that’s enabling them to live healthier and longer lives to stay in their homes and stay active in their communities.”
May is Older Americans Month Weikert Bryant says more than 7 million seniors across the country get some or all of their meals from food banks.
Find more information about SNAP benefits here: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap