A SNAP-For-Seniors Q&A

April 5, 2022 By: Rahsa Bale - SNAP Outreach Specialist Category: SHH News

A senior woman holding a bag of groceries

Discovering and applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Start here on your path to accessing SNAP:

What is SNAP?

SNAP is a federal nutrition program. In the state of Minnesota, it is run through the counties, so the county would be the one to qualify you for SNAP. It is a great program that can be utilized by folks to buy nutritious foods that they may not be able to get otherwise. And it can make more room in your budget for other necessities.

Why is SNAP important to the hunger relief system?

It’s important for the hunger relief system because if folks qualify for SNAP, they won't need to go to food shelves or produce distributions as much. They have SNAP, and that frees up foods for other people who might not be eligible for SNAP. So, it relieves that pressure on food shelves, especially during the times that we are in now.

Can seniors use SNAP?

Yes! SNAP is based on your household size and gross monthly income, so you qualify if you are under the income guidelines. Many people are surprised to learn they qualify, and far too many Minnesotans are eligible but not enrolled.

Contacting a member of the SNAP Outreach Team is the best way to find out if someone might qualify. We can ask the right questions to get the information to see if they might qualify.

How would someone go about figuring out if they qualify for SNAP?

There's a screening tool on our on our website that people can go to that has information on the income guidelines to see if they might qualify. Folks can also call or email Second Harvest Heartland SNAP team and we can certainly ask questions to see if they might qualify. The county is the one that will be to have the final say whether they do qualify, though.

What other ways do SNAP Outreach Specialists help with the process?

We complete thousands of SNAP applications throughout the year, so we know the right questions to ask to see if they might qualify. Also, we’re able to take that application and help them get it submitted to the county and be that sounding board for them if they have any questions. If they need to get their supporting documents sent into the county, we can help them with that as well. So, we follow along the journey with them, so they know that they're not alone. They can come to us if they run across anything that they don't understand or if they need some help.

Once someone qualifies for SNAP benefits, how do they use them?

It's super easy to use. SNAP benefits come on an EBT card. It's used like a debit or a credit card at the cash register. You get a monthly benefit amount, and it comes on the same day every month, so you can plan your shopping days accordingly. Then you can go shopping and buy whatever fresh produce, frozen meats, fresh meats, dairy, canned and boxed goods you need. Hot or prepared foods aren’t covered by SNAP, but you can buy just about any other food items. People are able to purchase those things that they really need and want, instead of having to rely on what the food shelf may have in stock. So, it’s the perfect way for folks to make the choices they want.

Where can people use SNAP benefits?

They can use SNAP at all local grocery stores, convenience stores and some farmers markets. SNAP works online too through Walmart or Amazon Pantry and you’re able to use the EBT card to make those purchases. That's a big help, especially for seniors.

What if I don't qualify for SNAP?

After you apply, the county will let you know within 30 days if you qualify or if you don't. If you don't qualify, you can still utilize other food resources in your area. SNAP Outreach Specialists can connect you to food shelves, produce or food distributions, and meal programs. Folks can utilize those resources whether they qualify for SNAP or not.

What else should seniors know about SNAP?

I think the most common concern is that they don't want to take SNAP benefits away from anybody. I always reassure them that the program doesn't work that way and that those benefits are out there for everybody. You wouldn't be taking away from families with children or anyone else.

I also come across a lot of stigma when working with seniors. They have a lot of hesitancy in applying and wanting to apply. So, I talk to them about how it's a program that they’ve given into, and you can take a little bit now that it's your time. It's like an insurance policy. You pay your premium every month and you hope you don't need it, but it's there. That's what the program is based on—it's there when people need it.

Learn more about SNAP at 2harvest.org/snap


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