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Creating a food secure nation. AARP Foundation’s Commitment to Americans 50+. Presenters: Hiram Lopez-Landin Jay Haapala Molly Johnson. About Us.

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creating a food secure nation
Creating a food secure nation

AARP Foundation’s Commitment to Americans 50+


Hiram Lopez-Landin

Jay Haapala

Molly Johnson

about us
About Us
  • AARP Foundation, a charitable affiliate of AARP, is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: hunger, housing, income and isolation.
  • By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, work more efficiently and make resources go further.
a growing generation
A Growing Generation

Americans 50 and older are the fastest growing consumer group in the United States.

Source: Understanding the Needs and Consequences od the Aging Consumer, A.T. Kearney, 2013

disproportionally affected groups
Disproportionally Affected Groups
  • Household incomes at or below 200% FPL
  • African-Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Individuals who have never married or are divorced or widowed
  • Renters
  • 50-59 year olds
  • Those with grandchildren present in the household

Many people 50+ face impossible choices: paying grocery or phone bills, medication or mortgage payments, the heating bill or the water bill.

finding solutions
Finding Solutions

AARP Foundation is working to:

Redefine hunger as a health issue.

2. Advocate for the investment of significant resources into existing commercial food supply chain infrastructure in a manner that gains efficiencies and provides improved access and reduces costs for vulnerable groups. This can only be achieved through scale.

why was this study conducted
Why Was This Study Conducted?
  • SNAP is the only nutrition assistance program available to most people 50-59
  • Plagued by high unemployment and underemployment rates
  • Often too young for Social Security and Medicare
  • Often ineligible for programs designed for households with children
  • Number of food insecure individuals in this age group increased 38% between 2007-2009
  • In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, the estimated SNAP participation rate was approximately 56% for 50-59 year olds compared to 36% for the elderly age 60 or older, and 72% for all eligible individuals.
research objectives
Research Objectives
  • To discuss barriers to SNAP enrollment among low-income people ages 50-59
  • To discuss differences in barriers for specific segments of this age group
  • To propose means for overcoming these barriers.
  • Data were obtained using a qualitative research approach that included key informant interviews, in-depth interviews, and focus groups
  • A total of seven key informant interviews, ten in-depth interviews, and nine focus groups were conducted
  • Data were collected from Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Oregon.
  • State Selection
  • Partner Selection
  • Sample Selection
snap and barriers
SNAP and Barriers

60 and Older

  • Only 1/3 of income eligible adults 60 and older are enrolled in SNAP.
  • Why don’t they apply?
    • Embarrassment or pride
    • Unfamiliarity with program rules
    • Unfamiliarity with eligibility criteria
    • Application process is too hard
  • 50-59 Year olds
  • Only 56% of income eligible 50-59 year olds are enrolled in SNAP.
  • Why don’t they apply?
    • Lack of information about how to apply
    • Poor customer service
    • Perceived low benefit amount
    • Seasonal income variation
lack of information
Lack of Information
  • They do not know that SNAP exists, which is especially prevalent among Hispanics
  • They do not believe they qualify
  • They forego applying for benefits because they believe, often erroneously, that they will be “taking away” benefits from others especially children who need them more
poor customer service
Poor Customer Service

They encountered or have encountered challenges and/or obstacles that prevent them from enrolling in SNAP. These challenges include, in order of occurrence:

  • Poor/discourteous customer service, cited the most frequently. In fact, none of the study participants cited a positive customer experience. Typical comments include:
  • …the people there [SNAP enrollment office] do not have a caring attitude and they just herd people in and herd them out
  • …you go into a food stamp place.. And they pretty much look at you, like, ‘what do you want? You’re a scum, you’re nothing, you want a handout from us?’
poor customer service cont
Poor Customer Service Cont…
  • The quality of information about SNAP benefits and eligibility, especially information inconsistent with their state’s SNAP requirements and that may have violated the state’s enrollment procedures.
  • Inconsistent or incorrect application of SNAP enrollment rules, including:
    • Being asked to submit information not required for enrollment in their state
    • Having an asset test limit applied when the state did not require this for SNAP benefits
    • Being assisted by staff who do not follow household rules for single applicants, especially when they say all persons living in the same house are “one household,” which resulted in their being disqualified.
perceived low benefit return
Perceived Low Benefit Return
  • Based on their previous experience years ago benefits were too low to justify the level of effort required
  • They believe, again erroneously, that the benefits they will receive are too small and not worth the trouble they will go through applying for them
income variation
Income Variation
  • Problems with seasonally adjusted income. A considerable number of people had more need for SNAP during particular months of the year. In these cases, proving income fluctuations took longer than the enrollment process itself; many SNAP benefits were delayed for so long that by the time applicants received them they were no longer needed.
  • Ensure local SNAP office personnel provide the highest quality of customer service with courtesy, professionalism and respect through diversity, sensitivity and customer-service training
  • Provide additional training to state and local staff on SNAP eligibility rules and procedures
  • Simplify communication about SNAP:
    • Make outreach materials more accessible
    • Identify appropriate Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and involve them in outreach efforts
    • To inform hard-to-reach populations, use diverse communications and channels
    • Encourage more “One Stop Shop” models of multiple public benefits to increase enrollment
recommendations cont
Recommendations Cont…
  • Develop new, better strategies to keep people informed about SNAP benefit delays:
    • Focus new research on interviewing SNAP applicants who do not complete the process
    • Research administrative decision delays and identify malfunctions
    • Use advocates to help applicants complete SNAP application and document-gathering
    • Tell applicants how long after submitting application they will receive benefits
    • Develop solutions for those with seasonal jobs by decreasing application errors and decision delays; and
    • Assess funding levels warranted to support quality customer service.
snap toolkit
SNAP Toolkit

AARP Foundation and FRAC (Food Research and Action Center) have created a digital toolkit to help organizations implement successful programs of outreach, education and application assistance, with the goal of increasing older adult participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Join us to help tackle food insecurity in our nation.

To learn more, visit:

Hiram Lopez-Landin

[email protected]