The COVID-19 pandemic has led to companies closing for the short term, the stock market falling and grocery stores running low on supplies. This creates a perfect storm for hunger and food insecurity, say nutrition and wellness state specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Even before COVID-19 more than 10 million older adults were going hungry, according to Sarah Francis and Ruth Litchfield. Now with social distancing, increased food costs and decreased food availability, the number of older adults who are at risk for hunger and food insecurity is even higher.
“Food insecurity means not having enough access to safe and nutritious food. Not being able to afford safe and nutritious food actually can age you! It can cause you to complete daily tasks at a level 14 years over your current age,” Francis explained.
“Being able to afford enough food is vital to keeping you, a loved one or friend healthy, strong and independent. If you or someone you know is having trouble affording food or accessing food, there are resources available,” Litchfield added.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
In Iowa SNAP is called Food Assistance and provides support to households so that they may have access to nutritious foods. Food Assistance can be used to buy any foods and nonalcoholic beverages that are sold to be eaten at home. You also can buy plants and seeds to grow food.
Amazon and Walmart now offer online options for Iowans using their Food Assistance EBT card to purchase food. This service is available statewide. Amazon will deliver to all Iowa ZIP codes. Walmart provides this service for all store locations that offer online grocery. Iowa Department of Human Services is exploring additional opportunities to expand this program to include other retailers. Food Assistance recipients will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but will not be able to use benefits to pay for service or delivery charges. For more information, please visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/online-purchasing-pilot.
If you need help completing either the online or paper application, contact your local DHS office or call the Iowa Food Assistance Hotline to speak with someone who can help with the Food Assistance Application. The hotline 855-944-FOOD (3663) is open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with additional assistance provided after hours on high volume call days.
Spend Smart Eat Smart
Visit the Spend Smart Eat Smart website, https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, for tips from ISU Extension and Outreach on how to stretch your food dollar and for easy-to-prepare, low cost healthy recipes.
All Iowa congregate meal program sites (for senior lunch programs) closed in response to COVID-19. These meal sites are now delivering meals. In Iowa, home-delivered meals are available to adults age 60 years or over, who are frail, homebound or isolated and, in some cases, their caregivers, spouses and/or people with disabilities. Due to the increased need for these services, Iowa DHS requested federal waivers to expand home-delivered meals to certain Medicaid recipients. This will provide home-delivered meals for Iowa Medicaid members who are home-bound and for home- and community-based service waiver members if their waiver does not have meals as an allowable service.
DHS also expanded homemaker services that allow someone to come into the home to prepare meals for HCBS waiver members. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (https://www.iowaaging.gov/area-agencies-aging/find-your-local-area-agenc… or call 800-532-3213) or LifeLong Links (866-468-7887) for more information.
2-1-1 is a one-stop source of information for people looking for health and human service programs, community services, governmental programs and disaster services. They connect callers to basic human needs resources (such as food pantries) and support for older adults and people with disabilities (such as home health services). Assistance is available in multiple languages, and services are accessible to people with disabilities.
LifeLong Links (866-468-7887) provides unbiased, reliable information and counseling to a wide range of customers. It is available to older Iowans of all income levels, individuals and caregivers so they can get the help they need while learning how to use their resources wisely.
USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse offers nutrition assistance programs, community food resources, and self-help resources through the English/Spanish USDA National Hunger Hotline (1-866-3-HUNGRY and 1-877-8-HAMBRE), which is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Central time.