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November 27, 2014

More Minn. seniors receive food stamps

The state is close to meeting its goal of getting 50 percent of eligible seniors on food stamps.

MPR reports the number of elderly on Minnesota’s food stamps jumped by more than 2,500 people last year.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, says seniors account for a large group of limited-income people with poor health that would greatly benefit from food stamps, but are reluctant to sign up.

Moriarty tells MPR that seniors don’t sign up because of the perceived stigma of the public assistance program or they are concerned that they may be taking money away from hungry children.

Only 41.6 percent of eligible seniors were taking advantage of the program in 2011. A campaign launched last year used ads to address the stigma and explain exactly what it takes to qualify.

Last spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new rules to target fraud in the state’s food stamp program.

Minnesota ranks fourth in the nation for the number of people that have sought four a more replacement benefit cards, a key indicator of fraud.

The activity is a red flag for food stamp “trafficking” where a recipient sells their food debit card at a discount exchange for cash. After the buyer uses it, the original owner calls to report it stolen and requests a new one.

The new rules seek to protect food stamp recipients like the elderly that lose cards more frequently and are not committing fraud.

More than 500,000 Minnesotans receive food stamps.