Advocates for Older Americans Tell Congress: Don’t Cut SNAP’s Thrifty Food Plan 


May 23, 2024

Three dozen groups advocating for older Americans this week delivered a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees expressing concern about possible cuts to SNAP. 

Advocates delivered the letter  as the House Agriculture Committee prepared  to begin their Thursday markup of the Farm Bill, which policy experts say could cut nearly $30 billion from SNAP over a 10-year period. Consideration of the bill is happening in Committee on May 23, with final votes expected in the evening.  Getting this partisan bill to the House floor is expected to be highly problematic, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has released a plan that rejects SNAP cuts.  

The letter, which was signed by the Coalition on Human Needs, notes that 12 million older adults are threatened by  hunger every day and more than 40 million individuals receive food assistance. 

“We are deeply concerned about the harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s most powerful anti-hunger response, in the Farm Bill proposal scheduled for consideration by the House Agriculture Committee,” the letter states. “The future cuts to SNAP benefits made by preventing necessary updates to the Thrifty Food Plan would have a serious impact on food insecure older adults – a population that is rapidly growing and already faces exceptionally high rates of food insecurity. We urge you to oppose a Farm Bill proposal that makes cuts to future SNAP benefits or includes any harmful policies that would worsen the problem of hunger for America’s older adults and other food insecure individuals.” 

The letter was sent to Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee; Rep. David Scott (D-GA), Ranking Member; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI),Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee; and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member. 

The letter states that the average monthly SNAP benefit for a senior living alone is $118, or less than $4 a day. “This monthly benefit helps seniors who too often are forced to choose between paying for food, medicine, rent, heat, or other daily costs,” the groups told the four congressional leaders.  

They wrote that future updates to SNAP’s Thrifty Food Plan that were authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill were intended to help ensure that benefits adjust to factors other than inflation. “As America’s older population continues to grow significantly larger and the challenges and requirements for healthy aging change in unanticipated ways, the future updates to SNAP benefits will be essential to prevent even higher rates of food insecurity,” the groups said. 

The groups also pointed out that older adults’ participation in SNAP relative to those who qualify for the benefit is “staggeringly low.” 

“Nationally, about 4.8 million older adults aged 60+ are enrolled in SNAP, yet another estimated 5 million eligible adults are missing out on benefits,” the groups wrote. “Given the under-enrollment of food insecure older adults in SNAP, provisions to maximize benefits, support timely and unbiased benefit outreach, and facilitate enrollment are crucial. Therefore, it is also important that the Farm Bill invests in the workforce helping SNAP beneficiaries and preserves merit staffing to ensure participants can navigate the program and receive full benefits.” 

The letter concludes, “We look forward to working together with you to achieve the successful reauthorization of a Farm Bill that reflects our common values, fulfills our collective responsibility to serve our nation’s older adults and the vulnerable among us, and paves the way for a better tomorrow.” 

You can see the entire letter and the signers here.