New Effort to Improve Senior Nutrition and Economic Security


The Atlantic Philanthropies has awarded a $2 million grant to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to support its efforts to improve the health and economic security of older adults by connecting them to key food and health care benefits.

Four million older Americans are food insecure, and one in three older adults lacks the resources to pay for basic food, housing, and medical needs. Benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS), and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) can play a vital role in stabilizing seniors' food and economic security, especially when they lack the means to secure additional income. Yet, millions of older adults are not enrolled in these critical public benefits programs.

NCOA will use The Atlantic Philanthropies grant to improve and streamline benefits systems at both the state and federal levels. Specifically, NCOA will harness the capabilities of BenefitsCheckUp®, its free online benefits screening tool, to improve data sharing and referrals between the key agencies administering SNAP, LIS, and MSP benefits—making it easier to enroll low-income older adults. NCOA also will use the grant to strengthen the links between the aging and anti-hunger networks.

"Too often, vulnerable seniors make unnecessary choices between healthy food or medicine or even heating their homes," says Nora Dowd Eisenhower , director of NCOA's National Center for Benefits Outreach & Enrollment. "Our goal with this grant is a more comprehensive approach to coordinating the systems of support, in order to make it easier for vulnerable seniors to get the benefits they need."

The effort focuses on three geographic areas—Alabama, Colorado, and Cook County, IL. "By concentrating in these three diverse areas, we hope to identify the best practices that really work and make these approaches adaptable to other states," Dowd Eisenhower adds.

"NCOA is grateful for this grant to further our mission," says James Firman , president & CEO of NCOA. "It will help us integrate SNAP into the wider landscape of benefits for seniors. Access to adequate, nutritious food, prescriptions, and health care enables older adults to maintain their health and stay independent in their own homes and communities."