Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Senior Nutrition Included in 2018 Farm Bill

Bill Would Streamline the Application Process for the ‘Senior Food Box Program’ and Reduce Burden on Seniors and

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, announced that the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act is included in the 2018 Farm Bill.  The 2018 Farm Bill received overwhelming bipartisan support and passed the Senate by a vote of 87-13, and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

The Nourishing Our Golden Years Act will streamline the recertification process and reduce the administrative burden on states for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), also known as the Senior Food Box Program.  The final agreement comes after the Senate and House of Representatives worked for weeks to reconcile the differences between each chamber’s version of the legislation.  

 

“Far too many seniors in Maine and across the nation find themselves forced to choose between buying food and buying prescription drugs or paying essential bills,” said Chairman Collins. “The Senior Food Box program provides qualified seniors with fruits, vegetables, and healthy non-perishable foods to fill this void.  Our bipartisan legislation will not only make it easier for seniors to continue to receive the assistance, but it will simplify the process for state agencies that provide this critical support.”

 

“I am pleased that the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act will be signed into law. This bill will strengthen the senior food box program, which is a vital tool for ensuring older adults have enough to eat” said Ranking Member Casey. “Every day, millions of seniors, in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, don’t know where their next meal will come from. Older Americans have worked hard their entire lives and this bill will help ensure seniors do not struggle in their golden years for something as basic as having food to eat.”

 

The Senior Food Box Program reduces food insecurity in Americans age 60 and older by providing a monthly box of non-perishable items to program participants. Currently, participants must recertify every six months to remain in the program even though most participating seniors are on a fixed income and unlikely to experience fluctuations in eligibility. Participants who miss their deadline to recertify are no longer eligible to receive a food box and must reapply. The six-month recertification period poses a barrier to participation. The Nourishing Our Golden Years Act will lift this barrier by extending how often participants must recertify to once per year.  This policy change would also minimize the administrative burden for both participants and states, making the program work better.

 

Last year, the Aging Committee held a hearing on senior nutrition.  In 2014, 10.2 million older adults experienced some level of food insecurity.  Seniors who are food insecure are more likely to experience depression, develop asthma, and report heart problems—all of which can lead to increased doctor and emergency room visits as well as hospitalizations.  In the U.S., the estimated annual cost of disease-associated malnutrition among older Americans is more than $50 billion.

 

Watch the archived hearing on senior nutrition.