Numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show free school meals and other pandemic relief for families may have improved food access for kids.
Food insecurity rates went down about 2% in 2021 among youth, but for other populations, it got worse.
“Those protections didn't extend to households with older adults. So many of them were struggling with fixed income, higher health care utilization,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of special projects and initiatives with the Food Research and Action Center.
Food insecurity for older adults living alone grew from 8 to 9 percent.
During the pandemic, SNAP benefits were expanded for this group, but numbers show less than half of those eligible were enrolled.
“There's sometimes misinformation,” said Ashbrook said. “So people may think that if I receive SNAP, then that lovely family down the street with children's not going to be able to receive SNAP. But SNAP is an entitlement program. So one of the beauties of it is anyone who is eligible can participate.”
For those who did enroll, she said the benefits were clear.
The Food Research and Action Center tracked numbers through Medicaid and saw overall improvements in health with fewer emergency room visits.
The group is calling on lawmakers to keep the temporary expansion on snap and improve outreach.
In the meantime, the Food Research and Action Center is partnering with AARP to train health care providers on how to screen for food insecurity in older adults.