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More Older Adults Experiencing Food Insecurity, Not Applying For Food Stamps

Published: Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 12:07pm
Updated: Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 12:08pm

More and more older Arizonans are struggling with food insecurity, but there’s new data from the Department of Economic Security showing that roughly 60% who are eligible for food stamps are not enrolled in the program. 

More than 100,000 older adults participated in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, in March. At the same time, nearly twice as many are not seeking help in the form of food assistance, according to data from DES.

Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Arizona Food Bank Network, says one hurdle is the application process. 

"I don't know why it's 31 pages, we're working with DES to decrease the application process, the cumbersome processes that surround the 31 pages," she explained. "We believe we could reduce that to about three or maybe even four with an instructional page."

Despite the growing number of older adults facing food insecurity, Rodgers says many are not comfortable asking for help.

"Some of them decide not to apply, because they're worried that they're taking benefits from someone else," she said. "Or they're worried that they may not need them, that they're not poor enough, they may be concerned about how they're going to be able to access the benefits, how they'll get to the grocery store, they're also concerned that the benefit levels may be too low. "

While there is some hesitation among some older adults, Rodgers wants to make sure this populations is aware of SNAP.

"And we really want to get the word out that for seniors who are struggling to put food on the table, because they're competing with other priorities in their house, like medicine or trying to figure out  how to make their their rent payments, that SNAP is available to help them make food purchases."

Rodgers says Vermont and Massachusetts are two states that are getting it right.

She says there are a number of other states who have streamlined their application process.

"Because they are participating in the elderly simplified application process," she said. "But, I think the ways that states have been able to get there have been in innumerous: It has been simplifying their application, making sure that there are dedicated lines to assist seniors who may not be familiar with the online processes. It's making sure that we have a simplified way of counting income that steady."