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Minn. seniors don't take advantage of food stamp program

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An analysis of state data released Wednesday shows many Minnesota seniors who are eligible for food stamps aren't signed up.

The analysis was done for the advocacy group Hunger-Free Minnesota. It shows less than half of eligible seniors -- 41.6 percent -- are signed up for food stamps, which are now called Food Support in Minnesota.

According to the report, many seniors on food stamps are disabled, almost two-thirds are women, and nearly 90 percent live by themselves.

"What you see from that is a lot of isolation," said Stacey Stockdill, the founder of EnSearch, the research evaluation firm that produced the report. "I think it's really important that people reach out to their neighbors, reach out to seniors and help them understand that this is available to them."

Seniors are historically slow to sign up, since they are often unaware they qualify, or feel there's a stigma to being in the program.

But the report also shows that's changing. Overall, the number of senior households receiving food stamps increased by 22 percent between 2008 and 2010.

"There's been a big push within the hunger community to try to get seniors enrolled," said Stockdill. "One of the things it shows is that in fact those kinds of campaigns are very important in helping seniors become aware that they are eligible and that this is available for them."

Editor's note: Minnesota Public Radio is a partner in the Hunger-Free Minnesota project. The partnership includes funding for MPR News to report on hunger and related issues.