Making voices heard
With an average monthly allotment of $119 for seniors living alone, SNAP is a particularly effective tool for addressing hunger. However, thousands of eligible older residents are not enrolled in SNAP, and thousands of seniors receive only the minimum benefit, which last year was cut by the federal government to $16 monthly. This minimum is woefully inadequate for many seniors who live on fixed incomes and must contend with the rising costs of DC living. Thanks to an advocacy campaign led by D.C. Hunger Solutions, the Fair Budget Coalition, and the DC Senior Advisory Coalition, the DC City Council increased the minimum SNAP benefit to $30 — allocating $1.3 million from the DC budget.
“This step will actually keep older adults in our community in better health,” says Elizabeth Fox, coordinator of the DC Senior Advisory Coalition which is hosted by Iona. “Fixed incomes, rising food prices, and the growth in DC’s aging population translate to the current reality of more hungry and malnourished seniors.”
Elizabeth is no stranger to this work. A leader on aging issues for 35 years, she was Iona’s executive director from 1982 to 1998 (presiding over the building of our home at 4125 Albemarle St. NW), worked for Experience Corps locally and nationally, and was instrumental in the inclusion of certain provisions of the 2006 Older Americans Act. In 2011, Elizabeth, now 72, came out of retirement to lead the S.A.C. She is often found with fellow advocates making their voices heard at the District’s Wilson Building. This advocacy led the City Council to increase the D.C. Office on Aging budget for home-delivered meals, eliminating long waiting lists that had existed for years. “Our success in reaching the City Council is in large part due to Elizabeth,” says Iona’s executive director, Sally White.
In turn, Elizabeth says, “the Coalition’s positive relationships with the DC government are a tribute to Iona in general and Sally’s leadership in particular. She is at the same time respectful and fearless.”
“Today, this stage of life is better recognized and understood,” says Elizabeth. “Thanks to Iona, Emmaus Services for the Aging, AARP, and many nonprofit advocates, organizations are now working together more effectively.
Still, for Elizabeth, who is currently organizing a second city-wide forum on affordable housing, “there is much more work to be done.”
Written by Janice Kaplan