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Why Many Low Income Seniors Are Refusing to Use Foodstamps -- Even If They Are Eligible

Low Income Seniors

When most people think about food stamps, or what is currently known as SNAP benefits from the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, they associate it with children and poor families. But the truth is that older Americans need it, too, because nearly half of America’s seniors live at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Yet many are not even applying for food stamps, let alone using food stamps to buy fruits and vegetables.

Why older people are not using food stamps

According to Michel Nischan, a chef who founded and headed Wholesome Wave, a non-profit based in Bridgeport, CT, older Americans often feel a stigma associated with using food stamps. Perhaps they remember the Great Depression. As a result, only 42 percent of seniors who are eligible for SNAP benefits actually participate in the program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is trying to improve these numbers by adding farmers markets to their list of places that are approved to accept food stamps. And nonprofits like Wholesome Wave are getting grants from the USDA to expand their food network reach. They are also educating older people and other low-income families about using their food stamps to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

Benefits of using food stamps

If more low-income senior citizens sign up for SNAP benefits and use their food stamps for nutritious food, the result will be better health and lower medical costs. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained recently, “And many seniors are proud people. And they don’t understand that SNAP is designed to be a supplement. It’s not a handout. It’s not welfare.”

To read more, visit www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/04/07/usda-wants-low-income-seniors-to-use-their-food-stamps-for-fruits-and-veggies/

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