Thirteen percent of seniors in New Mexico are under threat of not getting enough eat, according to an analysis of the most recent data by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.
But a lot of eligible seniors here are not signing up for food assistance, and that could mean $30 million worth of benefits are going unclaimed.
In New Mexico, 35,000 seniors receive monthly benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – but a report from Mathematica Policy Research shows tens of thousands of eligible seniors don’t apply for the help.
State agencies encourage seniors to participate in the program, but don't do active outreach. And many seniors are unlikely to sign up on their own.
Seventy-six-year old Martin Johnson is a retired social worker in Santa Fe who struggles to make ends meet. He says people in his and his parents’ generations didn’t like to ask for government assistance for things like food.
“My father would’ve said it’s a matter of pride," Johnson said. "You know, I try very hard to be self-sufficient myself. I thought I was very good at it, but it didn’t help."
The National Council on Aging has found some seniors don’t believe they would be eligible for help, while others might not believe the benefits are worth taking the time to apply. The non-profit is actively reaching out this month – May is Older Americans Month – to dispel some of the myths and help seniors sign up for food assistance.
Update: The most recent data analyzed by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger found a decrease in the percentage of seniors who were under threat of hunger, so New Mexico no longer has the highest rate in the Southwest, as a previous version of this story reported.