Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 25, 2018

HARTFORD – AARP Connecticut is joining forces with End Hunger CT!, Foodshare, the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) and the Hispanic Health Council in a campaign this fall to raise awareness among older adults and increase enrollment in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health and helps clients learn to make healthy eating and active lifestyle choices.

"While most families are busy planning for festive holiday meals in the coming weeks, thousands of older adults are faced with the challenge of simply putting food on the table," said Brenda Kelley, AARP state director. "More than 350,000 Connecticut residents receive help with their grocery bill each month and thousands more may be eligible, but are not receiving assistance. AARP and the AARP Foundation are committed to helping older adults find the assistance they need to put healthy, nutritious food on the table."

In Connecticut, only 34 percent of eligible older adults receive food assistance – leaving millions of federal dollars untouched. The most common reason people do not receive SNAP benefits is that they don’t realize they may be eligible.

The campaign is using a centralized toll-free phone number, 1-866-974-SNAP (7627), manned by trained volunteers, to assist people with eligibility screenings and enrollment applications. The number will be available year-round.

Over the next several weeks, the organizations will conduct SNAP outreach in various communities throughout Connecticu;, train volunteers to assist with enrollment efforts; host educational webinars for organizations and businesses; launch a direct-mail outreach campaign aimed at older, low-income adults in Connecticut; and use paid advertising to raise awareness of the program and get more people enrolled in SNAP.

Based on changes to SNAP implemented last year, an additional 70,000 older adults in Connecticut may now qualify for assistance.

"New changes to the SNAP benefit have made more people eligible," said Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger CT! "For instance, you may qualify even if you work, receive Social Security, SSI and/or retirement benefits. You may also be eligible if you own a home or car, have money in the bank or live with others."

According to Nolan, "The old routine of standing in the grocery store line while people watch recipients tear food stamp coupons from a book is no more."

Once a person’s application is approved, benefits automatically get loaded on a debit-style card which is accepted at most grocery stores, she said, adding that there are no hidden fees.

Alicia Flynn, vice president and chief development officer for Foodshare, said, "Foodshare is a vital safety net that helps 128,000 people within the greater Hartford area. But it is impossible to meet the food assistance need throughout the state by distributing food alone. SNAP is one of the most effective ways to get healthy food to the people whoneed it the most."

Tracy Helin, program director for CAHS, said, "For older adults and families that are struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy, SNAP can often mean the difference between putting food on the table or going hungry."

SNAP also provides a significant boost to local economies. Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates nearly $10 in total community spending.

In 2008, Connecticut’s Elder Economic Security Initiative, a collaborative effort among the Connecticut Commission on Aging, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and Wider Opportunities for Women Inc., found that the average monthly food costs for a single older adult in Connecticut was $234.

The campaign is being supported in part by the AARP Foundation.

To find out if you qualify for SNAP, call 1-866-974-SNAP (7627).