WASHINGTON, July 13, 2015—USDA announced today a proposal to allow homebound seniors and people with disabilities who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use their benefits for grocery home delivery services.
This is the first time the agency is proposing that grocery purchasing and delivery services run by government and non-profit organizations be able to accept SNAP benefits as payment, explained Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.
Noting that one in five SNAP participants is either elderly or disabled, Vilsack said the proposal will make it easier for homebound seniors and the disabled to have access to healthy food.
“This issue has a particular importance for seniors living in rural areas, as America's rural population is older than the nation overall and rural seniors experience higher poverty than seniors nationwide,” he said.
SNAP serves more than 4 million seniors. Nationally, 42 percent of eligible elderly individuals participate in the program, compared to 83 percent for all people who are eligible.
Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA’s proposed rule outlines eligibility and participation criteria for purchasing and delivery services serving the homebound elderly and disabled, and seeks comment from stakeholders.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will begin seeking 20 food purchasing and delivery services to participate in a one year pilot program. Lessons learned during the pilot will used to help shape the final rule, the department said.
Vilsack said during the White House conference that he hopes the project will prove to be cost effective through allowing seniors to stay independent in their homes longer, saving medical and nursing home expenses. He wants the pilot to “accumulate enough of a persuasive case to make it a more expansive and nationwide effort.”
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