The Good Hearts of Senior Citizens are keeping them away from much-needed food.
Picture an older woman, she walks a little slower, her eyes may not be as sharp as they used to be, her husband’s gone and now she’s on her own. She could be your neighbor, a friend or a relative. Like many seniors she probably has barely enough money to pay her bills, but she won’t ask for help and she sure won’t take any, especially if she thinks it’ll impact someone else in need.
“Fewer than 40 percent of eligible seniors in 2010 applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps),” says the legal director for the Food Research and Action Center, Ellen Vollinger. “One of the misconceptions we hear commonly from the elderly is that they feel they don’t want to take away from someone else.” In reality, a person’s participation in the program doesn’t reduce the benefits available to others.
Seniors aren’t the only ones missing out on help. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that nearly 51 million Americans in 2010 qualified for SNAP, but only 38 million received benefits – about a quarter of eligible people didn’t apply.
“Some people don’t know they’re eligible, for others it’s difficult to navigate the process, for others it’s the stigma,” says Vollinger.
Seniors receiving Social Security benefits may also be reluctant to sign up because their monthly retirement benefits are counted as income, thereby reducing the amount of SNAP/food stamps they would receive each month. FRAC officials say people are less likely to apply for the program if their benefits are low.