Local News

USDA announces grants to expand nutrition program among low-income seniors

Posted April 14, 2010 10:57 p.m. EDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest in pilot programs to increase access and participation in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program among low-income seniors, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday.

Vilsack said the grants, which total $8 million will allow state agencies to pursue innovative outreach and delivery pilot projects.

“Expanding nutrition assistance among under-served populations, such as seniors, will require us to seek innovative methods for program outreach and delivery,” Vilsack said in a statement. “These grants will allow State agencies to pursue those programs and deliver help to Americans in need.”

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is encouraging state agencies to submit grant applications for programs designed to boost SNAP participation among Medicare’s Extra Help participants. Extra Help, which is also known as Low Income Subsidy, is a program to help low-income individuals or couples with limited resources pay for their Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

Under a new law, data from these applications will be sent to state Medicaid agencies to enroll people in Medicare Savings Programs.

Officials said that FNS will provide funding to encourage the Extra Help population to participate in SNAP by using state Medicaid agency data from Medicare Savings Programs.

While the participation rate among all eligible persons was 66 percent in 2007, the participation rate is less than one third among eligible elderly residents, officials said.

Research shows multiple reasons why eligible people, including seniors, do not participate in SNAP, which was previously known as the Food Stamp Program. These include stigma, unawareness of eligibility, confusion about program rules and requirements, and lack of transportation.