Grocer steps up food assistance for seniors on SNAP

Safeway grocery stores in three Puget Sound-area counties are making an extra effort to help put food on the table for seniors.

Since Jan. 3, 110 of the stores in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state, and local non-profit organizations to provide SNAP recipients with new benefits that will increase their access to healthy food and make their shopping easier.

The help includes:

  • When shoppers buy $10 of produce with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars, they get a coupon for $10 for more produce. The goal of the state and federal-funded, first-in-the-nation program is more produce consumption.
  • The option of home-delivery or picking up grocery orders (made online) at stores.
  • Online shopping that helps SNAP recipients keep track of their benefits and how they’re being spent.

Safeway, one of the nation’s largest grocery chains, noted 10 percent of Americans have food-insecurity issues, and one in four American households aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. This is especially true among SNAP recipients who often lack the money to buy more expensive, healthier food.

In Washington, 16 percent of the populatioin is over the age of 65, and 11 percent of adults over 60 are experiencing food insecurity. “We also know that a third of those seniors eligible for SNAP benefits aren’t receiving them. These people are our neighbors and should have access to food at their neighborhood grocery store,” said Sara Osborne, a Safeway representative.

According to USDA, the average SNAP benefit – excluding additional funds provided as part of pandemic relief –increase by $36.24 per person, per month, beginning last October. As of January this year, average monthly benefit per person was $216 nationally and about $200 in Washington.

Osborne said Safeway doesn’t provide specific information about how many of its customers participate in the new SNAP-related initiatives at its stores, “but the problem of food insecurity has grown since the pandemic.”

Community non-profits that are working with Safeway to increase awareness of SNAP benefits include Central Area Senior Center in Seattle.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on food availability, USDA has provided millions of Americans with access to healthy food thanks through $12 billion provided through the American Rescue Plan, helping increase SNAP benefits.