The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) goes by a catchy acronym, SNAP. The problem is many eligible people, including seniors, are either unaware of their eligibility for benefits or find the enrollment process too bewildering.

Catholic Health Care Services (CHCS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has just received a $35,000 grant to offer assistance with the paperwork for seniors who wish to apply for SNAP.

The program is open to seniors 60 years and older, with the amount received varying by their income.


Funding for the program was part of a $2 million grant by the Walmart Foundation for hunger alleviation to Catholic Charities USA, which in turn distributed it to Catholic agencies around the country.

“Thanks to Walmart a significant number of people will be aided in maintaining a healthy diet, which is in dire need in our country,” said Sister Donna Markham, O.P., the president and CEO of CCUSA. “More than 50 percent of the people served by Catholic Charities agencies come to us because they are hungry.”

Programs like SNAP enable seniors to stay in their own homes as they age. “The process is very simple and they don’t have to go anywhere,” said a coordinator at St. Charles Senior Center.

In the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Catholic Health Care Services offer assistance to those who wish to apply for SNAP through its In-Home Support Program in South Philadelphia, the network of Senior Community Centers and Affordable Senior Housing Communities.

Many seniors who are eligible for SNAP simply do not apply for it, according to Karen Becker, director of In-Home Support and Special Projects at CHCS. Among the reasons may be they can’t get out to a location to apply, or they don’t have a computer to do it online or they simply feel there is a stigma attached to applying for food assistance.

“We know food insecurity is very high,” she said. “There are millions of older Americans at risk because of hunger. This service enables us to assist them with their going to a county assistance center. They can just call one of our senior centers.”


At St. Charles Senior Center in South Philadelphia, where there is a meal program for seniors who drop in, Jenna Flanagan coordinates social services including SNAP, and she believes programs like this enable seniors to stay in their own homes as they age.

Those in the upper end of the income eligibility bracket ($1,980 per month) may not receive a large sum, but every little bit helps and if you add it up over the course of the year it is well worth it, she believes. And the service isn’t limited to people who come to the Senior Center on a steady basis, anyone can call.

“The process is very simple and they don’t have to go anywhere,” she said.

Seniors 60 years or older interested in SNAP benefits can call the CHCS toll free number at 888-679-7669 or any of the Archdiocesan Senior Centers, all in Philadelphia: St. Anne’s Senior Community Center, 215-423-2772; St. Charles Senior Community Center, 215-790-9530; Norris Square Senior Community Center, 215-423-7241; Star Harbor Community Center, 215-423-4414.