Key Takeaways

  • Roughly 11% of older adult households in America faced food insecurity in 2022.

  • A national network of food pantries and food banks, as well as benefits such as SNAP, can help older adults better afford to eat.

  • Wondering how to get food help now? Find out what food assistance and other benefits programs may be offered in your local area.

Imagine rationing your meals every day to make sure you have enough food to last the rest of the week. Or delaying refilling your prescription medications in order to keep money in your bank account for groceries.

For many older Americans, these scenarios are a cold, harsh reality. Although food insecurity among older adults has improved since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still alarmingly high. In fact, roughly 11% of older adult households in the U.S. were food-insecure in 2022.1

Just ask Brenda, 69, whose part-time retirement job unexpectedly screeched to a halt. Suddenly, her monthly Social Security check wasn’t enough to cover her basic living expenses. “After paying rent, utilities, and bills, I often couldn’t buy groceries,” Brenda explained.

Linda faced a similar dilemma. After her employer reduced her work hours, this 60-year-old Wisconsin resident was “burning up my savings,” she reported. She worried constantly about how she would eat.

Does this describe you or someone you take care of? Don’t let financial hardship prevent you from putting food on the table. As both Brenda and Linda discovered, there are many resources available that can help. Below are some programs that may be available where you live.

Meals on Wheels

With a network of over 5,000 programs, Meals on Wheels is offered in nearly every community in America. Its volunteers are committed to personally delivering nutritious food to homebound older adults to help ensure their health and social well-being.

Enter your ZIP code to search for your local program.

Meals on Wheels is perhaps the most widely recognized names in home-delivered meals, but it’s not the only one. The Administration for Community Living’s Home-Delivered Nutrition Program partners with thousands of organizations nationwide to bring nutritious food right to your doorstep. Visit the Eldercare Locator to find your local area agency on aging and ask about availability of this program in your area.

Food banks

Feeding America operates over 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries across the United States, each serving a large area. Many food banks adapted the way they served their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic to follow physical distancing guidelines—and many of those changes have stuck, for the simple reason they reduce barriers for shoppers.

Use the food bank locator tool to find one in your community.

SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which both Brenda and Linda now participate in, helps people to afford food at nearly 250,000 participating grocery stores and other retailers across the country. You must meet certain income requirements to be eligible for SNAP. These income and asset limits are based on the federal poverty level (FPL) and change each year.

For example, in most states in 2024, a household of two people can earn up to $2,137 per month in gross income to qualify for SNAP. Households with one member who is age 60 or older (or has a disability) can have up to $4,250 in countable assets (e.g., cash, money in a bank account, certain vehicles).

Mr. KC, 64 , knows firsthand how SNAP can change lives. He had recently moved out of a nursing home when he contacted one of NCOA’s Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs). Since Mr. KC no longer had meals regularly provided to him, and had trouble affording groceries on his own, the BEC staff suggested he apply for SNAP benefits. To his surprise and relief, he was approved for the full amount: $280 a month. "I'm so grateful to be able to purchase groceries now without worry," he told us.

Use NCOA's BenefitsCheckUp to learn more and get help applying for SNAP in your state.

Remember: SNAP can only be used for purchasing food and seeds for growing food. It cannot be used to buy pet food, paper products, and other toiletries. However, changes to broaden what SNAP can be used for are being discussed at the state and federal level.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides food and nutrition help at no cost. If you meet the program guidelines, you can pick up the food from your local food pantries or soup kitchens.

The types of food you can get are different depending on where you live, but usually include a lot of shelf-stable items such as pasta, dried beans, canned fruits and vegetables, and soups. To find out how to apply for the program, please contact your state distributing agency. They can let you know if you meet the program guidelines and where you can get the food.

Use NCOA's BenefitsCheckUp to find out if you can get TEFAP, SNAP, and other food assistance in your area. 

Group meals

Congregate meal programs provide hot, tasty, nutritious meals to older adults in accessible group settings at least once a day—including sites like senior centers, schools, places of worship, restaurants, and more.

Generally, these programs provide free or donation-based lunch, but breakfast and dinner may also be available depending on where you live.

Enter your ZIP code into the Eldercare Locator to find congregate meal sites near you.

Senior food boxes

Officially called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), this vital federal benefit provides income-eligible participants with a monthly box of groceries. When combined with other food assistance programs like SNAP, the CSFP can help food-insecure older adults better stock their fridges and pantries.

The USDA authorizes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and several Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) to operate the Commodity Supplemental Food Program—though not all of them do.

Contact your state distributing agency to ask about the senior food box program in your area.

Other resources for food assistance

Many communities offer locally tailored resources to assist those in need. The resources below can help you get connected to the right agencies:

  • Call your state or local 211 service (or visit
  • Visit the Eldercare Locator to be connected with a variety of services, including transportation and benefits. Dial 1-800-677-1116 (weekdays, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST)
  • can help you find benefits that cover a variety of needs—not just food. Start by simply entering your ZIP code to learn what other financial assistance may be available to you.


1. USDA Economic Research Service. Food Security in the U.S.: Key Statistics & Graphics. Found on the internet at