About a quarter of Indiana's seniors live in a household with other family members, including children. (Virginia Carter)

About a quarter of Indiana’s seniors live in a household with other family members, including children. (Virginia Carter)

More than 7 million, or 40 percent, of seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have not applied, and the numbers are even lower in the Hoosier State. During Older Americans Month, the National Council on Aging has an effort under way to close the “SNAP Gap,” to get those folks access to healthier food, instead of relying on food banks. Thirteen percent of Indiana’s food-bank clients are more than 60 years old.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry says many seniors aren’t getting healthy food they need because they just can’t afford it.

“Seventy-seven percent of them know that they’re buying cheaper and unhealthy food because it’s what they are able to afford,” she said. “About half of them are receiving help from family and friends when they’re able. About a quarter of them are actually gardening or growing food in a community garden to offset that.”

Weikert Bryant says a quarter of Indiana households have one family member who’s over 60, and many of those homes have small children as well. The average amount a senior who does collect SNAP gets just $110 a month. She says that means they have just over a dollar to spend on each meal.

“A large number of them are also doing things like watering down their food or drink, and 29 percent of older adults are selling or pawning personal property,” she added. “Forty-six percent are receiving help from friends.”

Many seniors face barriers because they don’t have a computer or transportation to sign up for benefits, and many think they aren’t eligible. Weikert Bryant says we should pitch in and help them.

“They’ve worked hard their entire careers, they’re in a position where they might need help, they’re most decidedly in a position where they’ve earned that help,” she said. “So we want to make sure that they have that nutrition that’s enabling them to live healthier and longer lives to stay in their homes and stay active in their communities.”

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN