Only about a third of the eligible elderly population (defined as 60 years of age and older) participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest of the domestic nutrition assistance programs administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In response to the low participation levels and unique economic circumstances of elderly households, FNS has implemented specific eligibility criteria for elderly households, and has developed several demonstration projects and opportunities to waive federal regulations, that specifically address elderly access to SNAP.
FNS commissioned Social Policy Research Associates and its partner Mathematica to evaluate how some of these policy interventions have been implemented and their effects on SNAP participation. The evaluation focused on how nine States implemented five demonstration projects and waivers specifically targeted to increase elderly access to the program: Combined Application Project (CAP); Elderly and Disabled Recertification Interview Waiver; Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP); Standard Medical Deduction (SMD); and 36-Month Certification Demonstration. The evaluation sought to:
- Better understand the effectiveness of current strategies to improve SNAP access for elderly individuals;
- Identify best practices in implementing policies to increase and sustain SNAP participation by elderly individuals; and
- Provide actionable recommendations to FNS to help maximize program access while minimizing unintended consequences.
The evaluation combined findings from a qualitative analysis of how the interventions were implemented and how elderly participants experienced SNAP with findings from a quantitative analysis of each intervention’s effects using State administrative data. Evidence from this evaluation suggests that when interventions designed to increase elderly access are implemented with high fidelity and consistency, they generally have positive effects on measures of SNAP participation among the elderly, including SNAP caseloads, new applications, and rates of churning.