We’ve found free food for seniors through seven different programs and agencies. Most of these programs are exclusively for seniors, so don’t miss this list!
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, provides a flat amount of money that can be used to buy free food for seniors and people of all ages! The money is transferred to an EBT card, which can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible items from regular grocery stores. The average payout for this program is over $100 per person per month, which can make a big difference for low income seniors.
The USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program serves low income seniors who are at least 60 years old. This program provides nutritious food, including a variety of fruit, juice, vegetables, milk, cheese, grains and protein, including plant-based protein. The foods are distributed every month to eligible seniors. To apply, you will need to contact your State Distributing Agency. Check here to find your local agency.
Farmer’s Market Vouchers
The Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps low income seniors access locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs. The program provides vouchers that can be redeemed for produce at local farmer’s markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs.
The program is open to seniors who are at least 60 years old and earn 185% or less of the federal poverty guidelines. This program is typically run by senior centers and senior housing agencies, so please reach out to your local senior center for more information.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program
The USDA operates a program called The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP. This program is designed to help supplement the diets of low income Americans and specifically offers free food for seniors. This program does not provide money for food; it provides food directly.
According to the USDA website, the government purchases a variety of nutritious, high-quality USDA foods and gives that food to State Distributing Agencies. Each state receives a certain amount of food, which is passed on to food banks, soup kitchens and agencies like the Community Action Council that can distribute the food directly to low income people.
Each state handles this program a little differently, but it’s always worth reaching out to your local Community Action Agency for help. Let them know you need help with food, and they may just be able to help you get some of that food from the Emergency Food Assistance Program!
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Senior Meals Programs
Congregate meal sites provide nutritionally balanced meals, as well as activities, informational speakers, and more. Thousands, if not millions, of seniors enjoy daily meals at senior centers around the United States. If you’re looking for a free hot meal in your area, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
Meals on Wheels
Alternatively, if you don’t want to leave your home, you can apply for Meals on Wheels. The Meals on Wheels program is actually coordinated by 5,000 independently-run local programs across the United States. Along with your nutritious meal, you’ll also get a friendly visit from your delivery person and a quick safety check to ensure that you’re doing well at home.
Meals on Wheels primarily serves adults age 60 and older. The meals are provided on a sliding-scale payment schedule, with some seniors paying nothing at all and some paying a modest fee of about $3 per meal. This can usually be paid with food stamps (SNAP) benefits.
The official Meals on Wheels America website states that “no senior will be denied a meal because of an inability to pay” so they definitely offer free food for seniors. However, some areas have very high demand and may have waitlists because so many people need help.
There are food banks all over the country that provide free food for seniors. Some food banks even have special hours set aside to serve seniors and disabled adults, so that you don’t have to deal with large crowds during regular hours. Others offer free delivery for homebound seniors. It all depends on the policies of your local pantry.
To find a food bank or food pantry in your area, please contact 211 for assistance.
Get More Help for Seniors
We’ve found many ways that seniors can save money and get free stuff! Here’s what you need to know.