In 2009, thousands of seniors experienced hunger in Ohio because they didn’t know about USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This means they are at risk for food insecurity and malnutrition. For many years now, eligible seniors across America have not participated in SNAP, so when I heard Toledo Area Ministries (TAM) was out in the community helping change that, I had to learn more.
Since receiving a three-year USDA SNAP outreach grant in 2009, TAM has partnered with Lucas County Jobs and Family Services (LCJFS) to identify and enroll eligible seniors in SNAP. LCJFS provides the critical data to target outreach efforts, and TAM goes out into the community to find underserved seniors. The result? Fewer hungry seniors in Lucas County.
When I called TAM to learn more about how they conduct outreach, I found out they use a “point-of-service” concept to reach the seniors. “Many older adults don’t know how to access the system, where to find food assistance,” says Jim Brenizer, TAM’s Director of SNAP Outreach. “They also have this ‘sacrifice-thinking’ where they think others are more in need.” To address these and other barriers, such as stigma about the program and lack of transportation, TAM goes to the applicant, providing education, pre-screening, and application assistance in senior centers, libraries, and even individual homes.
In fact, TAM maintains a presence at 13 food pantries, 14 senior centers, six soup kitchens, two mobile home parks, and three family resource centers in the Toledo area. A month after enrollment, TAM follows up with seniors to make sure benefits were issued and that the seniors know how to use them.
TAM recently started an innovative partnership with a local television station to air public service announcements, using the “Door” PSA developed by USDA. Jim told me that the PSAs have been very effective in reaching seniors who don’t know about SNAP.
We’re thankful for work of our faith-based partners like TAM. Because of their efforts less elderly people will experience food insecurity during the course of the year. To find out more about how you can help promote USDA programs through your faith-based organization please visit USDA’s Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships web page.