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Food costs increase but Boulder County older adults have support

There are several programs available to help lower food costs for seniors
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Pam Branham says that although she is on a fixed income she doesn’t qualify for food assistance programs, although she has tried.

Branham, 74, is a Colorado native who moved to Longmont to work at IBM 40 years ago. While there she said her jobs varied but boiled down to “just about anything they wanted me to do to keep from getting transferred to a different state,” she said. These jobs included driving a forklift and working as an administrative assistant.

Not retired, “I’m in a place that is right between. I don’t make enough to (qualify). I worked 50 years to be able to retire and have a decent retirement. For the first five or six years it was good but now it is getting to the point where my money all goes to pay bills …”

Branham says she is surviving but inflation costs coupled with increases in lot rent in her mobile home leave her little left over to enjoy her retirement as she once did, which included taking trips with the Longmont Senior Center. She said she is always searching for ways to cut her costs so she can enjoy the retirement she planned for herself.

According to Teresa DeAnni, Healthy Aging Programs Manager for Boulder County, many seniors fall into a similar category as Branham. But she says many seniors qualify for more programs than they realize.

In the most recent Aging Well in Boulder County newsletter, DeAnni explained that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is underutilized by older adults. This program has funding set aside for older adults so no one is taking dollars from families, DeAnni said.

SNAP offers assistance with food purchases, but it can also cover some medical expenses such as dental care, hearing aids, deductibles and more, she said.

SNAP isn’t the only program available to older adults on the rising food costs. DeAnni said programs like Longmont Meals on Wheels — which can be delivered to participants at their homes — and lunches served at the Longmont Senior Center also help. 

In January, the Colorado Department of Human Services created a Everyday Eats program that fills a free monthly food box with the building blocks for nutritious meals for older adults in Colorado. 

“Our goal is to increase access to nutritional meals among older Coloradans, who often live on a fixed budget and struggle to meet their basic needs,” said Kathy Underhill, Food Distribution Programs manager for CDHS. “The program provides eligible adults 60+ with monthly packages of food basics like rice, cereal, beans and canned goods — everything they need to make complete, healthy meals. We’re here to help older Coloradans maintain their sense of dignity while getting the basic foods  they need to prepare healthy meals and stay nourished.”

Although older adults may have planned for their retirement, the increase in food costs could not have been predicted. From July 2021 to July 2022 food costs rose 10.9%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that costs will continue to rise in 2023. Officials predict food prices will rise another 2-3% over 2022 totals in 2023. 

“Older adults living at home report sometimes missing or skipping meals due to factors that impact their ability to obtain or prepare food, including disability or functional limitations, lack of reliable social support, lack of reliable transportation and inability to afford food,” according to America’s Health Rankings’ United Health Foundaion.

According to DeAnni, with access to all of Boulder County’s meal programs and food pantries, there is no reason older adults should not have access to nutritious meals no matter what their economic situation.

For more information on food programs, individuals can call 303-441-4995 or email tdeanni@bouldercounty.org.