For Immediate Release
BALTIMORE – February 26, 2013 – More than 300 low-income seniors living in Garrett, Cecil, Harford, Frederick, Montgomery, and Somerset Counties joined the February 26 Tele-Town Hall, sponsored by Maryland Hunger Solutions and AARP Maryland. Participants learned about eligibility requirements and how to apply for Food Supplement Program benefits (FSP, formerly called food stamps). Representatives from Maryland Hunger Solutions, AARP Maryland, Benefits Data Trust, and the Maryland Department of Human Resources spoke on the call.
The Tele-Town Hall came one day after the Senior Hunger Action Day on February 25 in Cecil County – also organized by Maryland Hunger Solutions and AARP Maryland – where approximately 280 seniors pick up emergency food items donated by the Maryland Food Bank and many received assistance with applying for FSP benefits or information on eating healthy on a low-cost budget.
Both of these events were part of Senior Hunger Action Month. For the second year in a row, Maryland Hunger Solutions and AARP Maryland have partnered together to raise awareness about and take action against senior hunger. This year, the groups focused on reaching seniors living in communities still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, who may be eligible for, but are not currently receiving FSP benefits. Across the state, Maryland Hunger Solutions estimates that three out of four seniors who may be eligible for FSP benefits are not participating in the program.
“No age group is immune from hunger, but seniors are especially vulnerable,” said Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “With low participation rates among eligible seniors, we must do everything we can to reach every senior who is eligible for assistance and help them apply for benefits.”
“Low-income seniors face difficult choices on how to spend their limited income,” said Hank Greenberg, State Director for AARP Maryland. “Struggling with a high cost of living and medical expenses, any assistance to buy food each month goes a long way in helping seniors meet their basic nutritional requirements. This is especially true for those whose homes were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. AARP MD is proud to partner in this work as part of our Drive to End Hunger efforts.”
Enough food, and health-sustaining food, is important to everyone, but it is especially important when people are particularly vulnerable to disease, or when their life circumstances – such as limited mobility – make obtaining a healthy diet more difficult. Research has shown that food-insecure seniors are five times more likely to suffer from depression, and they are 27 percent less likely to be in excellent or good heath compared to those who have enough to eat. With an average monthly benefit of $113 for seniors, FSP can help them afford healthy food.
As part of Senior Hunger Action Month, Maryland Hunger Solutions also hosted an informational training for the staff of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland about assisting with FSP applications for their 1,500 clients.
“In one of the wealthiest states in the nation, there are too many hungry seniors in Maryland,” said Demeroto. “FSP is a program that can help them put healthy food on the table, and we are committed to helping all who are eligible learn and apply for these benefits.”
To learn more about senior hunger in Maryland, visit the MDHS website.