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Getting Hungry AR Seniors The Benefits They Need And Deserve

The state AARP and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance are working this week to get hungry seniors the nutrition benefits they deserve.
The state AARP and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance are working this week to get hungry seniors the nutrition benefits they deserve.
September 9, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Federal figures say one Arkansas senior in four is at risk of not getting enough to eat, but this week two nonprofits are doing something about it. According to the USDA, nearly a quarter of Arkansas' senior citizens live at the edge of hunger. That's why the Arkansas AARP and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance are asking volunteers to spend this September 11 signing seniors up for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

According to JoAnne Mills, SNAP outreach director for the Alliance, it can help seniors struggling to feed grandchildren, like the 63-year-old woman she met who is trying to get by with a low-wage job.

"She just worries and worries about how she can provide food for four people," Mills said. "She told me what her rent and expenses were, and there was zero left for food. And she told me, you know, 'We're starving.'"

According to Arkansas AARP, three-quarters of seniors here who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program haven't signed up. According to state AARP Director Maria Reynolds-Diaz, some are put off by the paperwork, and others don't like to ask for help from the government. But she said organizers are lining up volunteers who can help with the forms. And, she said, many of the seniors who qualify have paid taxes their whole lives, and have earned the right to get something back.

"Especially the older adults have worked hard and contributed to society," Reynolds-Diaz said. "It is there for them to use now."

She said some people are embarrassed by the idea of using SNAP at the store. But, she said, now the benefits come on a card that looks like any debit or credit card, easy to use and private.

"Food Stamps are like a credit card that people can present at the grocery stores," according to Reynolds-Diaz. "They should definitely take advantage for the help that's there. It's there for them."

To volunteer, or just for more information, contact the state AARP or the Hunger Relief Alliance. The push is part of AARP's national day of service on September 11.

More information is at goo.gl/xyFdp4. Volunteers can e-mail arvolunteer@aarp.org or call 866-554-5379. Volunteers looking for groups and groups looking for volunteers can go to CreatetheGood.org to find out more about the day of service.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR