May 16, 2017

For Older Americans Month: Take a Stand for Charles

By Miriam K. Tohill

"I never imagined I’d get to this age and this would be my life… after the monthly bills, I can’t cover everything else I need. It makes me feel terrible that I can’t afford to take care of my health. After my medical, I’m only left with about $160, plus $17 in food stamps… I’m supposed to be on a special diabetes diet, but I just can’t afford to buy that food. There are times towards the end of the month when all I can afford to eat for days at a time is bread and milk… when you’re hungry and your stomach’s growling, I tell yah, it really don’t feel good…. If I could get $40 or $50 in food stamps, I could feed myself."
– Charles, 71.

Older Americans built our families, our communities, and our country. Yet Charles’s story is not unique; these same seniors increasingly are challenged by food insecurity. As we see 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day, they face ever-growing challenges in supporting themselves as they continue to age. This month, we must take the time to speak out to ensure that older Americans are able to lead their lives with dignity, free from hardship. We must take action to protect the vital support available for the 10 million seniors nationwide who face the threat of hunger.

Charles retired early after an accident left him unable to continue his trucking career. Now, he’s left unable to afford both the medicine and the nutritious food he needs – an impossible choice that 30% of our seniors nonetheless must make.  With seventeen dollars each month through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also called Food Stamps), Charles supplements his meals with an occasional healthy purchase.

SNAP helps 4.8 million seniors like Charles put food on the table and avoid the devastating impacts of hunger and poverty:

  •  The average older American’s SNAP benefit of $119 per month significantly boosts their monthly income, providing a powerful tool to stay out of poverty.
  • SNAP helps alleviate the hard choice between medical care and nutritious food: SNAP participants are more likely to access preventative care, to see improvements in diabetes and in heart disease, and to take needed medication for high blood pressure.

Yet between last Older Americans Month and now, we have seen politicians nationwide threaten this critical program. Recent proposals by the GOP look to cut SNAP funding, build more barriers to SNAP access, and ‘block grant’ the program - undermining the long-standing federal guarantee that vulnerable seniors have a place to turn in times of need.

Can we risk millions of seniors losing their access to the life-saving assistance provided by SNAP? Will we condemn Charles and millions of older Americans like him to a meager diet of cheap and unhealthy food as they face illness in their older years?

This Older Americans Month, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has an answer, loud and clear: ABSOLUTELY NOT! We’re outraged, and we’re taking a stand for Charles and struggling seniors nationwide.

Join us in telling our representatives: when you threaten SNAP, you threaten the millions of older Americans who’ve built this great country of ours. SEND A LETTER TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE NOW