As Americans sit down together for the Thanksgiving holiday, millions of older Americans and others worry about where their next meal will come from.
A new report from the Bread for the World Institute challenges the nation to reduce hunger by 25 percent by 2017 and to eradicate it by 2030.
Since the economy has hit rougher times, more American households have become “food insecure” — meaning they are either hungry or at risk of being hungry. About 14.5 percent of American households now fall into that category, including 8.3 million older adults.
Although help is available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as the food stamp program — only about 75 percent of eligible Americans participate, and only about 35 percent of Americans 65 or older who are eligible.
Furthermore, while more than half of SNAP-eligible older adults could get more in the way of benefits by having their medical expenses taken into account, only 14 percent of them do this, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
SNAP benefits were reduced when economic-stimulus funds ran out, lowering funding by $5 billion for the 2014 fiscal year. Now the House and Senate are debating SNAP funding again as part of the farm bill. The Senate version of the legislation would cut $4.5 billion from SNAP over 10 years; the House version would cut $40 billion.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and other Democrats are asking that the program be spared from additional cuts. “In this Thanksgiving week I hope everyone takes an extra moment to think about how we can be doing more to help the poorest and most vulnerable in our country,” she said. “I urge the members of Congress debating a final farm bill: Do not cut food stamps, do not increase hunger in America.”
The White House also issued a report on Nov. 26 pushing for SNAP funding, noting that the program keeps Americans out of poverty and stimulates the economy. “Every new SNAP dollar,” the report says, “generates up to $1.80 in economic activity for the over 230,000 retail food outlets that participate in the program.”
AARP and AARP Foundation, as part of its Drive to End Hunger, have launched several programs to enroll more older Americans in SNAP. You can learn more here.
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