Over the next two years, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) will connect 1.15 million eligible older adults to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), thanks to a $4.35 million grant from the Walmart Foundation.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 9.8 million older adults experienced food insecurity, meaning they lack consistent access to adequate, nutritious food. Today, those numbers are quickly rising. SNAP is the nation’s most effective and widest-reaching anti-hunger program. Research by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that participation in SNAP reduces food insecurity overall by 30%, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that only 48% of eligible older adults aged 60+ participate in the program.
During the coronavirus pandemic, older adults have been turning to NCOA for resources related to SNAP, food, and nutrition as they struggle to access and pay for food while being homebound. In the first week of the pandemic, more than 30,000 individuals downloaded a SNAP application on NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp®, a free and confidential screening tool that connects eligible older adults to benefits.
“We’ve heard from older adults and our local partners that accessing and paying for food is a critical need right now,” said Josh Hodges, NCOA Chief Customer Officer. “Food, on average, is the second highest household expenditure for people aged 60+, and too often they have to stretch their food budget in order to make ends meet. That’s where SNAP can help.”
“Now more than ever, older adults need support accessing the resources that help them put nutritious food on the table,” said Eileen Hyde, director of sustainable food systems and food access for Walmart.org. “This new grant builds upon the innovative work on benefits access that NCOA has championed for several years.”
Over the past 7 years, with support from the Walmart Foundation, NCOA has helped 3.6 million older adults access their SNAP applications, resulting in 1.14 million enrollments.
The new grant will support both in-person and online SNAP outreach and enrollment. NCOA will fund 40 community-based organizations that provide trusted, in-person benefits counseling in communities across the country. The grant also will be used to find and connect eligible older adults to their SNAP applications using the virtual tool BenefitsCheckUp, which is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Funding will target vulnerable and difficult-to-reach populations, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx, women, and rural Americans, many of whom have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults can find out right now if they’re eligible for SNAP by visiting www.BenefitsCheckUp.org/SNAP.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.