Essential Food Assistance Programs for Seniors

Food scarcity is a major problem for many seniors across the country. Programs exist in both the public and private sector to help.
Older woman with tooth pain informs a dentist

Around 1 in 3 senior citizens in the United States live below the poverty line. That’s around 15 million senior citizens struggling to make ends meet, which can result in many not getting access to nutritional food options. If you’re struggling to get the nutrition you need, then you could benefit from food programs for low-income seniors available across the US from both government and private organizations.

With these food assistance programs for seniors, you can get access to food that meets the necessary nutrition for senior citizens or financial help for food deliveries. This can provide you with the basic human need of nutritional food. Let’s explore some of the options you have for getting food assistance for senior citizens.

If You Need Food Today

Check out the Feeding America website to find a local food bank. Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks, and distributes 4.3 billion meals each year. It is focused on engaging people to fight against hunger.

It offers food without any expectation of payment, donation, or repayment.

Many food programs offer low-or-no contact options to ensure safety for visitors. Some offer seniors-only hours, drive-thru pantries, and expanded home delivery services. Check out what is available in your area.

Senior Food Assistance Programs

The Elderly Nutrition Program

A program developed by the Administration on Aging, the Elderly Nutrition Program is a federal umbrella program that provides grants and support to small organizations that provides food assistance programs. It also provides funding to seniors in need of home-delivered meals and meals provided in senior centers. It also provides senior citizens with services like nutrition screenings and special health assessments.

This is great for seniors with certain conditions like hypertension and diabetes and need to be put on a special diet. Knowing one’s dietary needs can help make food and meal planning for seniors more effective and provide the right nutrients.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

This is a USDA senior food assistance program that caters to low-income seniors to prevent them from having to choose between nutritious food and sacrificing their other essentials. It doesn’t provide for all of a senior citizen’s food needs, but it provides seniors with food items that seniors typically need. Instead of meals, seniors can expect food commodities that are distributed to local organizations who then distribute it to seniors in need.

This isn’t available for all states at the moment, so it’s best to check with your local government office or USDA office to see if you can sign up for this food program. However, this won’t provide for all your food needs, so you might have to look at other food assistance programs and grants for older adults for more assistance.

Senior Box Program

The commodity supplemental food program (CSFP) is often called the ‘senior box program.’ This program feeds more than half a million low-income seniors, ages 60 and older. It is designed to provide food packages that supplement nutrients and support health.

Senior Grocery Programs

Many of the Feeding America food banks offer Senior Grocery Programs. These programs provide free groceries to older adults. Don’t worry – there are no strings attached. Check with your local food bank to find a program in your area.

Benefits CheckUp

Find help with a free online service, Benefits CheckUp, offered by the National Council on Aging. Answer a few questions and get a personalized report of programs in your area. These offerings may include programs that can help with food, medications, health care, utilities and more. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

Meals on Wheels

This is one of the largest, long-standing, and well-known food programs in the United States. Meals on Wheels offers over 5000 programs and over 1 million meals per day. Meals are available for groups, as well as direct deliver for individuals who are homebound.

The local branches of Meals on Wheels are staffed by volunteers, with some programs overseen by county or city funding. Check out the programs available in your area.

Close-up of volunteers placing food into a donation box


SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a government-provided service, formerly called Food Stamps. Social Services offices usually handle SNAP applications. Some communities also have a designated SNAP Office.

Check with your state and county programs to see if you qualify for financial assistance for groceries. If you have limited mobility, it’s possible to fill out forms so a caregiver can complete the application, as well as get authorization to do your shopping with a SNAP card.

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is also known as SFMNP. This government program gives grants to states to help seniors get access to healthy farm food. Seniors who qualify are given vouchers or coupons to use at farmer’s markets, farm stands, or direct from a participating farmer. In most areas, the program operates from May through October.

If you’re currently part of CSFP or participate in SNAP, you can contact your local benefits office to get coupons, without having to fill out an application.

Approximately 840,000 seniors receive SFMNP coupons each year – and 85% are redeemed. The coupons can be used to buy fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey. It is also a great way for seniors to interact with members of the community, supporting farmers and small food producers.

Insurance Programs

Some insurance companies are assisting seniors who are homebound. These programs may be very useful for people who are suffering from chronic conditions, recovering from surgery, or experiencing limited mobility.

One program Humana Well Dine offers meals to qualifying Medicare members. These meals are easy to prepare, packaged, and available at no additional cost. Different options are available such as kosher, vegetarian, diabetic, puree, and more. The program is designed to help eligible seniors get high-quality food while recovering from a stay in a hospital or nursing home.

Restaurant and Voucher Programs

The Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and state governments are exploring ways to meet the food and dining needs of different populations. Some states, such as Oregon, offer vouchers at restaurants or other food service establishments.

Check with your county and state Department of Human Services to see what programs are available in your area.

Local Resources

Every community has unique programs to help seniors get adequate and nutritious food. Some areas offer programs under the umbrella of Emergency COVID funding, state programs, and county services.

Check with your local government for details about programs that may be available to get the assistance you need. Most of these programs offer pantry directories for cities and rural communities – in English and Spanish.

For instance, in Lane County, Oregon, you’ll find an online directory of pantries, food banks, and resources. The links include information about dining room services for people who are at-risk, homeless, or near homeless. Additionally, you can link to resources for Trillium Produce Plus, which brings high-quality produce to people in need – free of charge.

There may be similar programs in your area – check online to get the help you need.

Assistance Club Summary

At Senior Assistance Club, it’s our goal to provide resources to help you find organizations and programs that can assist you in your golden years. Many organizations and programs are available to help seniors get access to nutritious food. Get the food, financing, and access you need to eat well. You have options to get the food you need to stay healthy and well.