Multiple DC public and private agencies cite an increased demand for senior food assistance in the face of flat or declining resources of lower and middle class citizens, coupled with rising food prices. Food security is elusive for the 14.5 percent of the District’s senior population living below the federal poverty line and for many more in the next higher income tiers. Nearly 10 percent of all District seniors, regardless of their income level, were worried about food running out sometime in the preceding year, according to the 2010 U.S. Census report.
Good nutrition and food security is vital for all older adults, including those with chronic health conditions and those who want to maintain optimal health, functioning, and quality of life. The Home Delivered Meal Program provides nutritious meals to improve and maximize an individual’s well-being. Administered through the DC Office on Aging and funded by Title III (Grants for State and Community Programs on Aging) of the Older American Act (OAA), The Senior Nutrition Program provides congregate and home-delivered meals to qualified DC residents at or above 60 years of age, regardless of income. Following a large boost of $1.9 million in local funding for FY2014 and the successful annualization of the funds for 2015, this program can be highly effective in bolstering the health and well-being of frail older adults. Unfortunately, even with the large infusion of funds in FY14, there is again a waiting list for home-delivered meals and, according to the Office on Aging, an additional $1.7 million is needed in this fiscal year to meet the demand for current and new recipients of the service. Any significant increase in meals must also be accompanied by increases in program staff.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is widely considered the nation’s number one defense against hunger. In Washington, DC, more than 10,000 seniors benefit from SNAP, but thousands more are eligible. With an average monthly benefit of $119 for seniors residing alone, SNAP is a particularly effective tool for addressing senior hunger. However, the District ranked 47th in a ranking of our 50 states in reaching low-income older adults with SNAP. There is compelling need to broaden its use among seniors through outreach, advocacy, public education, and the adoption of policies that expand program access to thousands of additional seniors. The City Council included $1.3 million in the FY15 budget to provide a local supplement of $15 to those eligible for SNAP at the lowest level. Outreach and smooth implementation of this local supplement are essential to reach more people in need.
Goal: DC seniors will not lack for sufficient and healthful food, regardless of their financial or health status.