The New Bedford Council on Aging says it plans to dramatically increase participation by older residents in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by helping eligible seniors apply for benefits.

The New Bedford COA this week said it is one of 40 organizations across the U.S. joining forces with the National Council on Aging in a nationwide effort to fight senior hunger.

The organizations will use NCOA’s free online benefits checkup tool at www.BenefitsCheckUp.org to screen older adults with limited income for SNAP eligibility. The nationwide initiative aims to help at least 40,000 older adults enroll.

Food, on average, is the second-highest household expenditure for people over the age of 60, and often seniors have to stretch their food budget to make ends meet, according to the NCOA. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 9.8 million older adults experienced food insecurity without consistent access to adequate, nutritious food, the NCOA said, while stating that SNAP "is the nation’s most effective and widest-reaching anti-hunger program."

Research by Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that participation in SNAP reduces food insecurity overall by 30 percent, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that only 48 percent of eligible older adults aged 60 or over participate in the program, the NCOA said.

“Our organization has a strong history of helping older adults in need. We’re confident that increasing SNAP enrollment with BenefitsCheckUp and other proven outreach methods will have a profound effect on lives of older adults in the City of New Bedford," stated New Bedford Council on Aging director Debra Lee.

The New Bedford Council on Aging can be reached at 508-961-3136.

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