Thanksgiving in New York Finds Senior Hunger Soaring

Holidays find half of potentially eligible adults 60+ are food insecure & not receiving SNAP

Older relatives gathering with family and friends in New York for holiday meals, may be facing a harsh reality in their own homes—hunger. Senior hunger is soaring in the state, and, according to AARP, so are the barriers to getting help. In a new report, the Association has recommendations to change that.

In New York State, nearly one in four adults over the age of 60 and living at home is considered nutritionally at risk. The number of Americans age 50 and older facing the risk of hunger increased by nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2009, totaling nearly 9 million, according to AARP Foundation. 

It’s estimated that 50 percent of older adults in New York who may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) aren’t receiving the benefit, which averages $180 per month. That, AARP says, is leaving many older New Yorkers food insecure and struggling.

“Many older New Yorkers are suffering silently. For them Thanksgiving can serve up a harsh reminder of their own food insecurity,” said Beth Finkel, state director of AARP in New York State. “In every county in New York, the same reality exists: Older adults are struggling to keep food in the cupboards, especially as other costs soar, including winter heating bills.”

In a report titled Hunger Among Older New Yorkers: Breaking Down the Barriers, AARP says some of the barriers preventing older New Yorkers from applying for SNAP include the stigma associated with accepting assistance, a fear of the application process, and lack of awareness of the benefit and its eligibility requirements. AARP is encouraging New York State to simplify and streamline the SNAP application process for those over 60, use data-driven strategies to identify potentially eligible individuals, and increase the benefit amount by implementing a standard medical deduction for seniors with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Roughly 500,000 New Yorkers age 60+ receive SNAP benefits, allowing them to maintain good health and nutrition, yet census data identifies another half million who could be eligible. In much of New York participation rates are even lower, with some counties having an estimated 70 percent of people 60+ who are likely eligible, but not receiving SNAP. 

“There’s a stigma associated with SNAP and unnecessary barriers to accessing the benefit that must be addressed in order to tackle senior hunger in New York,” added Finkel. “As New Yorkers prepare for hearty meals this holiday season, we’re hoping they are more alert to those struggling to keep food on the table across our state and the nation.”

The recommendations in the report were formed through discussions among hunger stakeholders attending a year-long series of regional and multicultural roundtables held around the state, which culminated in a statewide summit in Albany in 2012 convened by AARP New York in partnership with Hunger Solutions New York and with the support of AARP Foundation. 

To apply for SNAP online, visit New York City residents should visit or call 311. In New York State the SNAP application is currently available in seven languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian/Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish).

For one-on-one assistance in applying for SNAP or finding other food assistance resources, visit Hunger Solutions New York’s website to find nutrition outreach and education coordinators by county.

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