NCOA Leads Successful National Movement to Help Seniors Enroll in SNAP


Vanessa Sink
Public Affairs Manager

Nearly 400,000 seniors find and get support sustaining a healthy diet

Arlington, VA – When it comes to eating a healthy diet, millions of Americans 65 and over face a double whammy: their income is fixed, and their spending on food is consuming a larger portion of their budget.

Mrs. Edwards, 81, is just one example. A former accountant, Mrs. Edwards fastidiously tracks her expenses in retirement, living frugally, and making sure she pays all of her bills on time. But after paying her medical expenses, utilities, and property taxes, there’s very little left for healthy food.

Nationally, adults aged 65+ have an average annual income of $41,000, and they spend nearly $5,200—or more than 12%—on food. Their friends just 10 years younger have a greater income (averaging $63,000 annually), and they spend less (10.6%) on groceries.

“Along with health care, food becomes a larger piece of the budget pie as we age,” said Lura Barber, Director of Hunger Initiatives at the National Council on Aging (NCOA). “Seniors know the value of healthy food, but they are challenged to find ways to stretch their income to cover all of their needs. That’s where SNAP comes in.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides financial support to eligible seniors, so they can purchase healthy food and free up their budget to cover other expenses. More than 5 million seniors are eligible for the program, but the vast majority either doesn’t realize it or don’t apply for the benefit.

That’s why NCOA, in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, has started a national movement to help eligible seniors access SNAP. In 2014, NCOA launched a national awareness campaign and awarded grants to local partners, achieving impressive results. Between August 2014 and January 2015:

  • More than 330,000 older adults accessed their SNAP application online through NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® free benefits screening tool.
  • More than 30,000 older adults completed applications with the assistance of local partners, resulting in an estimated $34 million in SNAP benefits.

Mrs. Edwards was one of those seniors. DC Hunger Solutions, an NCOA local partner, helped Mrs. Edwards complete and submit her SNAP application. She now uses her benefit to buy staples like chicken and milk.

With continued funding from the Walmart Foundation, NCOA has selected a second round of community partners for senior SNAP outreach and enrollment. Some of those selected will help expand the message to new areas, while others will continue their successful 2014 outreach.

This year, 20 of the grantees will target underserved populations, focusing on isolated older adults and smaller communities. The remaining 10 grantees are comprehensive service providers working in larger metropolitan areas.

Click here to see a full list of the 2015 local partners. To find a state SNAP application, visit

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at and @NCOAging.

About NCOA’s Senior Hunger Initiative

NCOA’s Senior Hunger Initiative works to combat senior hunger by enrolling eligible older adults into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The initiative combines technical assistance to local community organizations with online help and advocacy to make it easier for eligible older adults to access SNAP to pay for healthy food. Learn more at