About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
by James Barden, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
May is Older Americans Month. As we celebrate our elders’ contributions to our country, we also reflect on the harsh reality that many seniors are struggling to put food on the table. There are resources available, but only one-third of Massachusetts seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receive benefits, according to the National Council on Aging.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is trying to change that.
In January 2013, The Food Bank was awarded a grant from the Walmart Foundation and Feeding America to expand SNAP outreach to underserved populations, especially seniors. SNAP can give income-eligible seniors (60 and older) a considerable boost to their often limited budgets.
Seniors, in particular, benefit from being enrolled in SNAP. Many elders without SNAP are making tough choices about whether they should spend their money on food or prescriptions. SNAP helps alleviate the need to make those kinds of decisions. Many seniors don’t realize that they’re eligible or might feel that they’re taking money away from another family by receiving benefits. SNAP is designed to expand when times are tough and contract when the economy improves; anyone who meets the eligibility guidelines can receive benefits.
The Food Bank staff and volunteers provides support to discover if elders are eligible and document their medical expenses correctly in order to achieve the highest deduction.
Many seniors recall the days when food stamps were issued as coupons, marking them in line at the grocery store. Currently, SNAP benefits are distributed using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. It’s hard to tell if a customer is buying groceries using their credit card, debit card, or EBT card. This anonymity at the cash register goes a long way in helping to reduce stigma around this program.
The Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach department offers application assistance and case management over the phone and in person, at a variety of pantries, Brown Bag distribution sites, meal-sites, and other partner organizations throughout the four counties of Western Mass. The Food Bank also has a team of dedicated community volunteers who donate their time to help their neighbors apply for SNAP benefits.
If you’re interested in finding out more about eligibility for SNAP, call The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at 1-800-247-9632 to be prescreened for eligibility and to apply over the phone.Comments Off
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