Improving SNAP Access for Older Adults

Nov 28, 2023

Improving SNAP Access for Older Adults 

Blooming Health recently collaborated with the AARP Foundation to improve SNAP access. Is now an inclusive, age-friendly engagement solution and is used by 5 NYC-based community organizations. Inspired by the learnings from this collaboration, we hosted a panel discussion and webinar on Nov 2nd, 2022. It was regarding improving SNAP access for older adults with leading experts in the aging and nutrition network. 243 live participants attended the webinar from across the US. 90% of webinar attendees were staff from community-based organizations (CBOs). That assist older adults with basic social needs, including nutrition, meals, SNAP benefits outreach, and enrollment. Together we discussed the challenges, solutions, and a look at what’s ahead.


View the Webinar Recording On-demand

Click here

Right now, at least 10 million older adults. Over 50% are struggling with accessing healthy food and nutrition. SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has played an integral role. In helping older adults combat this food insecurity by providing access to healthy food and nutrition. SNAP has a tremendous impact on improving economic opportunities and health outcomes for older adults. Despite all of its well-known and documented benefits. 52% – 71% of older adults in America do not participate in SNAP (USDA, AARP).

The reasons why older adults are not participating in SNAP are layered and complex. But, understanding those reasons is crucial to helping improve SNAP access for older adults. With understanding comes solutions, followed by impact.


Why are older adults not participating in SNAP?

Many challenges affect SNAP access for older adults. Paolo Narciso, Vice President of the AARP Foundation, identifies the complexity of the SNAP application process in many states as a key challenge. For many adults, the application for SNAP benefits is often burdensome and confusing. 

There’s also the issue of “is it worth it”? From compiling supporting information to staying on top of deadlines. Taking on such a burdensome process for what they expect. They believe to be a little benefit isn’t worth the effort for many older adults. 

Fig 1: Results from a webinar poll showed that the challenges faced by CBOs in older adults’ SNAP outreach and enrollment leaned heavily towards application complexity.


Another challenge with getting older adults to access SNAP is perception. Jim Wengler, Director of Programs at Hunger for America, shares “there is a perception amongst a lot of older folks that SNAP is something that is not a program for them for various reasons.” Reasons include seeing it as welfare for those truly in need.  Or those who would not survive without it, the stigma around accepting or needing help. Not wanting to take away the benefits from others who may need it most.

Finally, a lack of access to education about SNAP programs for eligible adults can be a real challenge. There are eligibility criteria in place that older adults. They are unaware of what significantly impacts the benefit amount — like paying out-of-pocket medical expenses. There are also older adults living with family members or raising grandchildren who don’t know they are eligible for benefits. 

Data from Blooming Health’s recent collaboration with the AARP Foundation. Showed that every time our CBO partners sent an educational broadcast (via Blooming Health’s remote engagement solution) around average SNAP amounts in NY and eligibility criteria (e.g. if you own a car or a home, you can still get SNAP). Relatively more older adults reached out to get help with SNAP. Review our complete case study and key results here.

Potential solutions to improve SNAP access

While there are many challenges facing older adults concerning SNAP access. Many organizations are working diligently to increase the number of eligible older adults participating in the program. At the core of these solutions are education and innovation. Here are some things we can start doing now:

  • Shift the messaging. One of the most powerful ways to address some of the perceptions around SNAP is by shifting the messaging. Jim encourages staff to focus on SNAP. Is a benefit that older adults have earned over their lifetime (much like social security benefits). Rose frames participation in the SNAP program under the scope of current events like the pandemic and rising inflation. Using language like “you shouldn’t have to choose between food and medicine” can shift the perception from stigma to acceptance. 

  • Leverage technology. On the topic of perception, there’s also some perception around older adults not using or having access to technology. Paolo reminds us that technology is a broad term. Older adults use text messages, chats, and other forms of technology to communicate and get information. Using technology to automate communications, educate older adults on SNAP programs, and enable continuous engagement goes a long way. As part of the AARP Foundations’ innovation program, CBO partners in NYC used the Blooming Health platform to continuously engage older adults with SNAP education and food security needs via text messages, phone calls, emails, and in multiple languages. This led to a 5X increase in SNAP-related case units in 2022 relative to 2021. 

  • Lean on innovation. Meeting people where they are can be a powerful practice in innovation. Paolo shares an initiative where a group was set up to help people with applications while they were in laundromats. The idea was that there was time and opportunity to connect with people. Rose references a program during the pandemic that taught people how to grow windowsill herbs. People loved it, but it was also a chance to give them information about nutrition, SNAP education, and SNAP benefits. 

  • Collaborate with others. When it comes to getting older adults the assistance they need, it’s helpful to look toward the aging network as a whole. Bob Blancato, executive director at the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Programs, tells us there’s power in collaborating on the benefits programs available to older adults. Actions like linking SNAP applications to other benefits and connecting nutrition with health are essential.  

A positive outlook for the future

As we continue to look for ways to increase SNAP access for older adults, taking learnings from the pandemic into consideration is a great way to think outside the box. The past two years have allowed flexibility and innovative initiatives that have proved successful.

A recent White House conference on nutrition, health, and hunger brought a lot of key challenges and ideas for improving SNAP access to the forefront. As Bob shares, there’s a strong commitment and enhanced interest concerning things like the maximum and minimum benefit amounts and universal screenings for food insecurity and malnutrition in all federal healthcare systems. 

With advocacy pushes to make some of the pandemic emergency services permanent and dedicated organizations working together to develop innovative solutions – improving SNAP access for older adults is possible and sustainable. 

During the webinar, we also shared learnings from Blooming Health’s recent collaboration with the AARP Foundation on improving SNAP access for older adults. Blooming Health’s age-friendly technology solution enabled 5 NYC-based CBOs to educate 2,500 older adults about SNAP benefits and identify their food security needs in a personalized way through multilingual texts, voice calls, or emails. This continuous engagement led to a 5X increase in requests for SNAP benefits help from older adults in the participating CBOs while reducing the time from SNAP application initiation to submission from 57 days (pre-BH) to 30 days (post-BH). Please access a case study reporting our key results here


Interested in Addressing Food Security?

If your organization is located in NY, PA, CA, FL, TX, MI, MS, AL, or SC, participate in an innovative SNAP program to receive subsidized access to the Blooming Health platform.

Click here


About Blooming Health

Blooming Health is an age-tech company founded in New York with a mission to power healthy aging in place for all. It’s inclusive, digital engagement solution enables aging care providers across New York, Arizona, and California to scalably engage tens of thousands of older adults and caregiver clients in a personalized way across text, voice calls, emails, and over 25 languages. Aging care providers have seen a three-fold increase in client engagement via the Blooming Health solution, while also saving two hours per day in outreach capacity for their care staff. Please check out a 1 pager on our service and a 3 min product demo video. To learn more about Blooming Health, please visit www.gobloominghealth.com or reach out to team@gobloominghealth.com.

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Download
our
recent
newsletter

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Discover how innovative approaches in social health engagement are breaking barriers and fostering stronger connections within communities.

Blooming Health empowers organizations to seamlessly connect with their communities through a powerful AI-assisted engagement platform, ensuring every message is personalized and effectively delivered, regardless of age, communication method, or language.

Contact

+1 (445) 234-4541

43 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

Copyright © 2024. All right reserved to Blooming Health

Download
our
recent
newsletter

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Discover how innovative approaches in social health engagement are breaking barriers and fostering stronger connections within communities.

Blooming Health empowers organizations to seamlessly connect with their communities through a powerful AI-assisted engagement platform, ensuring every message is personalized and effectively delivered, regardless of age, communication method, or language.

Contact

+1 (445) 234-4541

43 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10010,

Copyright © 2024. All right reserved to Blooming Health