Bart Brown: SNAP fills in gap for seniors

October 10, 2016 in Bart's Hope Notes Harvest Time Newsletter

View More: Food Harvest does more than supply food – it provides a network of hope to struggling children, families and seniors right here in our community.

Because we’re committed to providing a hand up, not simply a hand out, our network of 200 hunger-relief charities provide services like nutrition education, skills classes and even promoting job fairs and helping people sign up for SNAP, all in addition to food distribution.

Here at Ozarks Food Harvest, we have two dedicated staff members working with our pantries, feeding sites and other community organizations to educate people about SNAP eligibility. SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but you may know it as food stamps.

In the past year alone, Ozarks Food Harvest’s outreach to low-income families has generated nearly 620,000 meals through SNAP, and we’re committed to seeing that number grow.

We believe that we work best when we work together, and that includes working with government programs that are proven to help hard-working families and seniors get back on their feet. We often meet families who struggle with under-employment – they’re working but it’s just not enough – and seniors who struggle to have enough food on a fixed income. That’s where private charity and government programs, like SNAP, can come together to help.

Last month we teamed up with the AARP Foundation to mail 8,500 outreach letters to those we serve over the age of 50 who we thought were eligible and could benefit from SNAP. AAPR funded the mailing to twelve Ozarks counties.

Nearly one third of the people we serve are over the age of 50, and 16 percent of our clients are seniors age 60 or older.

Through our research, we know that seniors who struggle with having enough food are more likely to have lower nutrient intake and a higher risk for chronic health conditions and depression. Hunger in our senior population can be more devastating when compared to hunger in younger adults.

Unfortunately, the need for emergency food assistance among seniors is expected to rise as baby boomers become older. And oftentimes, transportation barriers and physical limitations prevent low-income seniors from visiting a food pantry or senior site.

Thankfully, we have solutions like SNAP and our Senior Food Program that provides nearly 2,100 boxes of nutritious food each month.

We recently met Sadie when she attended a rural Mobile Food Pantry with her daughter. The 91-year-old shared, “I appreciate it a lot. I’m on a fixed income and it sure helps me make it through the month.”

It’s seniors, like Sadie, who could use an extra hand. We believe that the generation who came before us and worked so hard to provide for themselves and their families deserves our help now.

Hunger is a persistent need in our community. Here at Ozarks Food Harvest we’re coming up with new ways to reach people in need all the time. As we continue to see record food distribution and SNAP applications, we can’t help but be thankful for your support. None of our outreach would be possible without your gifts.

We hope we can continue to count on your generosity as we give hope to the hungry in the Ozarks.

Bart Brown is the president/CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest.