Far Too Many Seniors in the Nation’s Capital Struggle Against Hunger. SNAP Can Help.

June 13, 2019

By Ryllie Danylko

For many Americans, entering their golden years means relaxing into retirement and spending more time with loved ones. But for 5.5 million seniors, including seniors in D.C., it can also mean facing food insecurity.

That is the reality for Larry P. – a 68-year-old D.C. native who currently lives in senior housing in Northwest D.C.

Like millions of seniors across the country, Larry, a retired guest services employee, currently lives on a fixed income, which makes accessing nutritious food challenging. In the District, 10.4 percent of households with seniors face food insecurity — higher than the national average of 9.5 percent.

Fortunately, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps to close the senior nutrition gap by boosting seniors’ food purchasing power. Larry’s monthly SNAP benefit of $30 – the minimum benefit allotment in D.C. – helps ensures that he can afford the food he needs to keep hunger at bay and maintain good health and well-being.

Larry does most of his grocery shopping with a friend at his neighborhood market and the dollar store. He prides himself on being thrifty and seeking out deals.

“I’m from the old school, and my father taught me how to never be hungry,” he said. “I know how to get out here and make do with what I have.”

For Larry, this means combining his SNAP benefits with other resources around the District, including the food assistance programs organized by local nonprofits, such as Bread for the City, and the monthly food bank at his apartment building.

Seniors who use SNAP experience a number of benefits, including better nutrition, improved health, lower health care use and costs, and reduced hospital and nursing home admissions. Unfortunately, far too many food insecure seniors are not receiving SNAP, or other food resources, for a number of reasons, including stigma associated with receiving benefits and not knowing that they are eligible.

To help close the senior SNAP gap and ensure that more older D.C. residents like Larry are able to live full, healthy, hunger-free lives, D.C. Hunger Solutions is working to raise awareness about food insecurity among this often overlooked population and advocate on their behalf. Learn more about our work to connect eligible District residents to SNAP, and dive into best practices for connecting more eligible older Americans to SNAP benefits.

If you know a D.C. senior who could benefit from SNAP, check out Five Easy Steps to Apply for SNAP in Washington, D.C.