Bill Would Streamline the Application Process for the ‘Senior Food Box Program’ and Reduce Burden on Seniors and States
Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act to streamline the application process and reduce the burden on states in the administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), also known as the Senior Food Box Program.
“Far too many seniors in Maine and across the nation find themselves forced to choose between buying food and buying prescriptions drugs or paying essential bills,” said Senator Collins. “The Senior Food Box program provides qualified seniors with healthy fruits, vegetables, and other non-perishable foods. Our bipartisan legislation would not only make it easier for seniors to continue to receive the assistance, but it would simplify the process for agencies that provide this critical support. Senator Casey and I encourage our colleagues to join our efforts to change the trajectory of our nation by supporting the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act.”
“Federal nutrition assistance, like the Senior Food Box Program, is a vital lifeline for many seniors,” Sen. Casey said. “The Nourishing Our Golden Years Act would make it easier for older adults to benefit from the Senior Food Box Program and reduces the likelihood that a recipient would miss a re-certification deadline and become ineligible. This bill would help us fulfill our sacred responsibility to older Americans by ensuring they have access to nutritious foods.”
The Senior Food Box Program improves the health of low-income Americans, ages 60 and up, by providing non-perishable items, and fresh fruits and vegetables, to program participants once a month. By extending how often participants must recertify, from a minimum of six months to a once a year, the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act would minimize the burden for both participants and states. Currently, in some states, seniors who receive a food box must re-certify by proving their eligibility to participate every six months. Participants who miss the deadline to re-certify are no longer eligible to receive a food box and must re-apply, putting them on the state’s waitlist. Since most low-income seniors are on a fixed income, they are unlikely to experience fluctuations in eligibility.
A growing number of older Americans face hunger and food insecurity. In 2014, 10.2 million older adults, ages 60 and up, experienced some level of food insecurity. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, nearly one in three Maine seniors face hunger or the threat of hunger. 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, hospitalizations and disability. In the U.S., the estimated annual cost of disease-associated malnutrition among older Americans is more than $50 billion.
In July, the Senate Aging Committee, chaired by Senator Collins, held a hearing on senior nutrition. During the hearing, Pat Taylor, a retired health care worker of Penn Hills, PA, testified about the support her family receives from the monthly Senior Food Box Program. “The senior food box has been a god-send…Because of the senior food box that we receive through the Lincoln Park Community Center, we do not have to decide between paying for our medication and putting nutritious food on the table,” Mrs. Taylor said. Pat and her husband James raised 10 children, five biological children and five adopted sons with disabilities. Pat and her husband worked their whole lives and never imagined struggling to make ends meet after retirement.
Click HERE to watch the July hearing titled, “Nourishing our Golden Years: How Proper and Adequate Nutrition Promotes Healthy Aging and Positive Outcomes.”