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Pride and lack of information about SNAP keeps seniors from signing up, experts say

Posted at 6:34 AM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-23 11:34:09-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Having nothing to eat may be hard to understand for most people.

Not for David Johnson.

"Before we got on SNAP and after we lost everything in the fire, we had to go months without knowing where we were going to find something to eat," said Johnson.

Johnson, like the 87 percent of all people eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, applies for and get the benefits.

But, hundreds of thousands of people 60 years or older in Ohio are struggling to eat simply because they aren't signing up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Summit County Job and Family Services Assistant Director Frances Ladd says the county noticed the trend through its Adult Protective Services hotlines.

"The majority of the referrals that we get through our hot-line are the self-neglect," said Ladd. "Self-neglect is usually, 'I'm not eating.'"

So why don't Ohio seniors sign up for the program that would help?

"It's pride," said Ladd. "It's the fact that I've taken care of myself all these years. Why should I have a government hand out? But this isn't charity."

That's why the country is using a grant from the National Council on Aging to spread the word. It lets the county partner with groups like Vantage Aging, where people like Senior Director of Community Engagement Dawn Moeglin have experience caring for people with all sorts of needs.

"We're trying to grown our funder base, we're trying to grow our collaborative partnerships and really the benefit of collaboration is being able to leverage each others resources like we do with Summit County," said Moeglin.

When Summit County got a similar grant in 2017, they signed up nearly 3,000 people on SNAP benefits, teaching them how to make the system best work for them.

"When you're doing a SNAP budget, it's like doing taxes," said Ladd. "There are a lot of deductions you can get just because you're a senior, or because of your medical expenses."

The grant money Summit County received this year is going towards events like the Seniors and SNAP Breakfast on Monday, March 25 at the Springfield Township Community Center, 2491 Canfield Road, Akron, OH 44312.