State Officials Want More Seniors to enroll in SNAP

Only 30% of qualified PA senior citizens receive nutrition assistance

Shelby Cassesse
March 30, 2018 - 1:51 pm
Only 30% of qualified senior citizens in Pennsylvania receive SNAP benefits.

Courtesy: Commonwealth Media Services

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HARRISBURG (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – State officials are trying to determine why only 30% of qualified Pennsylvania senior citizens apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Formerly the Food Stamp program, SNAP is a program meant to provide nutritious food to low-income individuals and families. While 173,000 senior citizens are in poverty in Pennsylvania, only about 50,000 receive SNAP benefits. 

Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne says qualified senior citizens without nutrition assistance might make choices that are detrimental to their health. 

"They are forced to choose strategies that can be harmful to their health, such as foregoing medical care, purchasing low-cost, nutrient-poor foods and overall making tradeoffs between food and other basic necessities such as medication," she said at a Thursday press conference at the Central PA Food Bank. 

In an effort to encourage more senior citizens to apply to the program, the Department of Human Services has reduced the SNAP application from 24 pages to two and has increased eligibility redeterminations from one to three years. 

Research shows that seniors who participate in nutrition assistance programs are more independent because of better nutrition and overall health. In a four-year study by Benefits Data Trust, a group of senior citizens with SNAP benefits had less hospitalizations, emergency room visits and medical costs per year compared to a group that were not in the program. 

DHS Secretary Teresa Miller says senior participation in SNAP is lower than all other demographics, despite its benefits. 

"It allows seniors to lead healthier lives and not have to choose between purchasing medication or food," she said.