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5 Programs to Help Seniors Access Food

There are several benefits programs that help seniors who meet income and/or disability criteria to pay for nutritious food. Anyone can use NCOA’s free online screening tool, Age Well Planner, to see a list of eligible programs

There are four common programs:

1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Once called the Food Stamp program, may have different names in some states. SNAP provides benefits to qualified households through electronic cards that can purchase nutritious food at participating stores.

Less than half of all seniors who qualify for SNAP are enrolled in the program. Senior Hunger resources provide SNAP outreach and enrollment tools as well as a downloadable SNAP application (for each state) at NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® site. Seniors affected by a disaster may be eligible to receive additional or replacement SNAP benefits through D-SNAP, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

2. Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

A federally-funded benefit program that awards grants to states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and federally recognized Indian tribes. The grants are used to give income-qualifying seniors coupons that can be used to purchase food from farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs.

3. Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

A program designed to improve the health of income-qualifying seniors age60+ by supplementing diets with nutritious USDA food. CSFP food packages include a variety of foods (such as milk, juice, cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, canned meat, poultry, or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables). This program is not available in every state.

4. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

A federal program that provides nutritious food to income-qualifying seniors at no cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture buys food and then ships it to the states – the states then distribute the food to local organizations (usually food banks), which distribute the food to soup kitchens and food pantries. Eligibility criteria differ among the states.

5. Feeding America Network of Food Banks

Feeding America has 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs serving people in nearly every community in all 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Meals and groceries are available to anyone in need without obligation, regardless of circumstance – it is also free and confidential. Millions of seniors regularly visit local food pantries or meal programs to maintain health while managing a fixed income. Millions more visit the Feeding America network programs in emergency situations. To find a food bank, visit the Feeding America food bank locator and search by state or zip code for contact information on local banks.

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