Island Harvest Acts To Keep Seniors Healthy

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Island Harvest is helping seniors gain better access to healthy foods.  (Photo Courtesy of Island Harvest Food Bank)
Island Harvest is helping seniors gain better access to healthy foods. (Photo Courtesy of Island Harvest Food Bank)

When it comes to eating a healthy diet, millions of Americans 65 and over face a double whammy—a fixed income and rising food costs.

Nationally, adults aged 65 and over have an average annual income of $46,627, and they spend more than $5,500—or nearly 12 percent—on food. Additionally, this year those who rely on Social Security received just a 0.3 percent increase in their Cost of Living Adjustment. Their friends just 10 years younger have a greater income (averaging $75,262 annually) and they spend less (9.3 percent) on groceries.

Island Harvest Food Bank was recently awarded a $50,000 grant to support a National Council on Aging (NCOA) nationwide effort to help older adults struggling to buy groceries apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to supplement their food budget.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that just two out of every five seniors who are eligible for SNAP are enrolled in the program. This means that millions of low-income older adults are missing out on this vital program, which provides an average monthly benefit of $110 to help participants buy healthy food.

Island Harvest Food Bank is one of more than 30 community organizations across the country that is stepping up its efforts to assist seniors in applying for SNAP. The organizations will use NCOA’s free online Benefits Check Up tool (www.benefitscheckup.org) to screen older adults with limited income for SNAP eligibility. Since 2014, the initiative has screened almost 400,000 people for SNAP eligibility, and helped nearly 70,000 seniors apply for SNAP.

“It’s critically important to be part of this proven effort that has the potential to help low-income older adults in Nassau and Suffolk counties improve their health and their financial and food security,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO, Island Harvest Food Bank. “Island Harvest Food Bank has a strong history of helping seniors in need. We’re confident that increasing SNAP enrollment with Benefits Check Up and other proven outreach methods will have a profound effect on lives of seniors on Long Island.”

To find out more about SNAP eligibility, contact Maria Quiroga, 631-873-4775, ext. 210, or maria@islandharvest.org.

For more information on NCOA’s senior hunger initiative, visit ncoa.org/seniorhunger

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