Senior food and nutrition program a SNAP

WESTFIELD – The state estimates that a third of residents who could qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have not enrolled.
SNAP is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services. Eligibility is based on the family income and enrollment has doubled since 2007, when the economy began to falter.
Karen Noblit, a social service technician and SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders) counselor said a number of assistance programs are available through the Senior Center, but that the challenge is to get senior citizens to apply for that assistance.
“That generation is so proud,” Noblit said.
The Department of Transitional Assistance, which administers SNAP, has made changes that remove the barriers for those seeking assistance.
One change is that there are no longer food stamps to pull out at the checkout counter, and have been replaced with an Electric Benefit Transfer (EBT) swipe card.
“It’s like using a debit or credit card,” Noblit said.
Another barrier removed for senior citizens is due to the change in how household income is calculated.
“The Department of Transitional Assistance now allows senior to (deduct from their income) the cost of all of their medical expenses, all of their dental, prescriptions, annual eye glass expenses, pharmacy co-pays, which for many seniors is a substantial expenditure,” Noblit said. “That helps out seniors quite a bit.  It’s huge.”
Noblit said the Senior Center staff would provide assistance to any senior citizen to apply for the SNAP food assistance, as well as other programs such as fuel assistance.
“Anyone who comes in here looking for assistance, we do an application and send it up to the SNAP program which make the eligibility decision on the request for assistance,” Noblit said. “The card can be used at any supermarket, many convenience stores, even the Farmers’ Market. A lot of seniors can’t afford food because the cost of their medications is so high, so we apply for assistance in both areas.”
SHINE counselors also provide assistance in applying for Medicare and Fuel assistance programs.
“We have one stop screenings services for seniors,” Noblit said.

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