People Over 60 in Knox County Struggle with Hunger

People Over 60 in Knox County Struggle with Hunger

We live in the wealthiest country in the world. When people in other countries are starving, the United States regularly ships food to them. Non-profit organizations also get involved in trying to alleviate hunger in many poor countries. You probably have even helped in their efforts.

One thing not regularly spoken about is poverty and hunger right here in our own country.

Many People in America Will Go to Sleep Hungry Tonight

Americans, especially elected officials, don’t like to talk about difficult subjects. One of them is hunger here at home. We have a habit of coming up with catch words and phrases most people don’t understand. These take our minds off these difficult subjects.

When it comes to hunger here at home, the current catch phrase is Food Insecurity. You may see or hear that when the topic of hunger comes up and have no idea what it means. Simply, Food Insecurity is not having the nutritious food a person needs on a daily basis to survive. Why don’t they just say it?

The Hunger Problem in Tennessee is Severe

You may think Tennessee does not have a hunger problem. Actually, it does. When it comes to older people not having the nutritious food they need, Tennessee is the fourth worst of all 50 states. There are about 150,000 people here in Tennessee who don’t have the proper food to eat on a daily basis.

Knox County is no exception. Right now, there are older people who do not have the nutritious food they need. Many are going hungry. Others eat what they can afford but not the proper food their bodies need.

• Many of these have poor health because of their hunger and poor nutrition.

• Many also are depressed.

With their limited incomes they have to buy cheap, unhealthy food. Most have medical problems and cannot afford to buy the medicine they need.

How Many Older People in Knox County are Not Eating Properly?

Current estimates are there are almost 9,100 older people in Knox County living in poverty. Many of these are not eating properly. 2 out 3 who are eligible for help are not applying for it.

You may think these are homeless people. Actually, only a small number are. There are not that many homeless people 60 and older. Have you ever seen a homeless person in their 70s or 80s?

The sad thing is . . .

. . . There is No Reason for These People Not to Be Able to Eat Properly

The government has a program to help them.

If you’re old enough, you may remember years ago the government made various food items available to people. The most common one most remember were 5-pound blocks of cheese.

That program was replaced by Food stamps. The government no longer supplied food. People could use their food stamps to purchase food in grocery stores and supermarkets.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

As time passed, there was a stigma attached to the term, Food Stamps. Many looked down on the program. In 2008, Congress passed an act changing the name of the program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

They took the first letter of each word (SNAP) and the food stamp program became the SNAP program. An eligible person now gets SNAP Benefits instead of food stamps.

Currently the monthly SNAP Benefit nationwide is $106.

You may know a person over 60 who does not have enough to eat. It might be a relative or friend. It even might be the 80-year-old widow who lives next door or in your neighborhood.

Their income is low and they are struggling. They can’t afford to buy the food they need. They may have heard of the SNAP program but are unaware they qualify for benefits.

SNAP Guidelines

It is easier for people 60 and older to get SNAP benefits than younger ones. Here are the guidelines:

 The individual has to be a U S citizen or a legal immigrant who has lived in the United States for 5 years.

 The net monthly income has to be $1,005 or less for a single person or $1,354 or less for a two-person household. (The net monthly income increases if there are more people in the household.)

Net monthly income is the gross income they have less certain deductions. Most people are surprised by the deductions allowed. Some are:

• medical and hospital costs including the cost of health insurance and deductibles,

• the cost of dentures, hearing aids, eyeglasses and prosthetics (Even polydent and other denture cleaners are allowable.),

• the money paid for the services of Home Health Aides,

• the cost of Service dogs and transportation to and from medical appointments, and

• the charges for over the counter drugs, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.

 People 60 and older can only have assets of $3,500 or less. Assets typically include money in savings accounts and stocks and bonds. The value of some assets, like the home they live in or money in retirement accounts, is not counted.

The EBT Card

When a person is approved for SNAP benefits, they receive an Electronic Benefits Card (EBT). An EBT card is like a debit card. At the time they receive it, the monthly benefit they are approved for is loaded on the card. Each month afterwards, the benefit for that month is added to their card. Normally that happens between the first and fifth of each month.

They can use their EBT card at grocery stores, supermarkets and many different kinds of food retailers. In Knox County, they can even use it to purchase vegetables at designated Farmer’s Markets. If they don’t use their full SNAP benefit one month, any balance will carry over to the next month.

Apply for SNAP if Your Income is Low. Urge a Relative, Friend, or Neighbor to Apply. 

If your monthly income is low, it is worthwhile for you to check to see if you qualify for SNAP benefits.

If you have a relative or friend whose income is low, you might want to talk to them about the SNAP program. Find out if they have heard about it and if they have applied. If they haven’t, encourage them do it.

You may have older neighbors whom you know are struggling to make ends meet. Let them know about SNAP.

The SNAP Senior Outreach Program

Alice Allen is the SNAP coordinator at the Office on Aging. She is available to answer questions about the SNAP program and help people fill out their applications for SNAP benefits. Alice can be reached at 865-524-2786.

We live in the greatest country in the world. No one here should be struggling with hunger on a daily basis. Let’s get the people who are struggling the help they need today.


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