The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 30, 2013

Too proud to ask | Many seniors are foregoing food stamps

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — A healthy lunch or some much-needed medication?

It’s a question that far too many Pennsylvania seniors seem to be asking themselves, as the budget isn’t always there for them to be able to afford both.

But it doesn’t need to be that way, according to the AARP.

The senior advocacy group says that almost 350,000 seniors in the commonwealth do not always have enough

money to buy food. That’s a staggering and sad-dening number.

What makes the situation even more distressing is that many of them spurn programs that could help them put a healthy and much-needed meal on the table.

In many instances, the stigma that surrounds food stamps is stronger than their hunger pangs.

We understand the seniors’ desire to stand on their own two feet. It’s an admirable trait and one that we wish was stronger in some of the working-age people who are more than comfortable relying on government assistance for long periods of time.

But our seniors are in a different situation. Most have worked hard all of their lives, whether in blue-collar jobs, service to our nation or at home, raising a younger generation. Now that they can no longer provide for themselves, they’re too proud to ask for help.

Well, at least when it comes to food stamps. Many more are willing to accept assistance when it comes to paying for their medications.

In rural Pennsylvania, according to a story written by John Finnerty of CNHI’s Harrisburg Bureau, the number of seniors enrolled in the state’s food stamp program is less than half the number of those receiving assistance with the cost of prescription drugs.

That’s astonishing, considering that the income guidelines for the programs are essentially the same.

Much of the difference is because of the stigma attached to the food-stamp program, according to Thomas Snedden, who is the director of the prescription drug plans run by the Department of Aging.

“It’s one thing to present a prescription card at the pharmacy,” Snedden said. “It’s another thing to use food stamps at the cash register in the grocery store.”

It shouldn’t be. A well-balanced diet can be just as important for senior citizens as many medications. The inability to afford healthy food options can lead to more medical problems, which can result in the need for even more medication.

We urge our seniors who are in need of some help in getting healthy meals to reach out for it by contacting the Cambria County Assistance Office at 533-2491 or toll free at 877-315-0389 or the Somerset County Assistance Office at 443-3681 or toll free at 800-248-1607.