According to the nonprofit organization Hunger Free Colorado (HFC), 33% of the state’s population lacks reliable access to nutritious food. The Feeding America food bank system says nearly 475,000 Coloradans report hunger daily. These statistics include 7.5% of older Coloradans who face hunger, which HFC says forces them to make choices between purchasing groceries or medication. Also among the recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the state, HFC reports that 34% live with an older adult or family member with a disability.
Hunger Free Colorado, an AgeWise Colorado Provider
(https://agewisecolorado.org/provider/hunger-free-colorado/), is a statewide nonprofit organization that connects people to food resources to meet existing needs. HFC also advocates for policy, systems and social change to end hunger. The organization envisions a day “when every Coloradan has equitable access to the nutritious food needed to thrive and reach their full potential.”]
For older Coloradans who need food assistance, there are a number of resources to turn to. We will cover the key ones here.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Human Services runs several food assistance programs. A major one is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, referred to as SNAP.
SNAP is part of a federal nutrition program to help low-income households purchase food. It provides a monthly benefit that helps families and individuals buy the food they need for good health. The amount of benefit provided is based on income, other resources beneficiaries have, and the number of individuals in the household. County human services departments are responsible for determining eligibility and authorizing SNAP benefits.
Who is eligible for SNAP in Colorado?
Those who qualify for SNAP include persons who may meet one of the following criteria:
- Work for low wages
- Are unemployed or work part-time
- Receive TANF, SSI or other assistance payments
- Are elderly or disabled and live on low income
- Low-income adults ages 18 to 49 who have no children in their home (known as ABAWDs, able-bodied adults without dependents)
Individuals, couples and families may qualify if their income is less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This next table shows the gross monthly income limits and current maximum monthly SNAP allotments, based on household size. Note: The values shown in the table were current as of Oct. 1, 2022 but are subject to adjustment in the future.
|Household size||Gross monthly income limits||Maximum monthly allotment|
|Each additional member (add)||+$788||+$211|
To see if you qualify, you can complete this pre-screening tool on the Colorado PEAK website. (This is an informational tool only; it is not a formal application for SNAP.)
How do you apply for SNAP in Colorado?
There are several ways to apply for SNAP benefits:
- Apply online using the Colorado PEAK website.
- Use the MyCOBenefits app on your smartphone. You can download the app from either the Apple or Android app store.
- Print the application of your choice below, fill it out and return it by mail, fax or in person to your county human services office.
- Call the SNAP outreach partner, Hunger Free Colorado, at 855.855.4626. They can help you complete an application over the phone. For more information on the outreach partners who can help provide application assistance, click here. Learn more about Hunger Free Colorado at https://agewisecolorado.org/provider/hunger-free-colorado/.
When filling out the application, please provide as much information as possible. If you need help or do not understand a question, a staff member can help you.
Can you dispute being declined for benefits of SNAP in Colorado?
Yes. If you believe you’ve been unfairly denied benefits, you should reach out to your County Office to discuss the decision. County staff must explain the action taken on your SNAP case. This can be either as a discussion or a more formal Dispute Resolution Conference. If, after this explanation or Dispute Resolution Conference, you still do not agree with the decision, you should request a Fair Hearing.
All SNAP Dispute Resolution Conferences and Fair Hearing requests will be filed at your local county office, either through a verbal request, in writing or using one of these forms: English SNAP Hearing Request or Spanish SNAP Solicitud de Audiencia. The SNAP Hearings Unit within the Colorado Department of Human Services will preside over the Fair Hearing. To learn more information about the SNAP Hearings Unit and the SNAP Fair Hearing process, visit the SNAP Hearings Unit page. SNAP Intentional Program Violations (fraud) hearings are heard by the Office of Administrative Courts.
How are SNAP funds issued in Colorado?
SNAP benefits are furnished on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, also known as the Colorado Quest Card. The card can be used like a credit or debit card at participating food stores—any authorized store across the country that has the EBT or Quest Card logo. The benefit can be doubled in value by shopping at participating markets and food stores that support the Double Up Food Bucks program. More on this shortly.
Benefits are deposited into the EBT account on the same day each month, even if it falls on a weekend or holiday. A personal identification number (PIN) is required to access benefits on the EBT account. The PIN is set by the cardholder and is what keeps the benefits safe. The EBT card does not have an expiration date.
Learn more about PIN safety and how to use your EBT card by reading the EBT card brochure (English or Spanish), by calling EBT Customer Service at 1.888.328.2656 (1.800.659.2656 — TTY), or by going to the Colorado EBT page.
Double Up Food Bucks in Colorado
The Double Up Food Bucks program can increase your food buying assistance at various venues as follows:
At the store: Bring your EBT card to a participating Double Up Food Bucks store. At the register for every $1 you spend on any SNAP eligible item, you will get $1 off Colorado-grown fruits or vegetables. So if you spend $5 on bread, eggs, meat, milk, etc. you will get $5 off any Colorado-grown produce.
At farmers’ markets: Bring your EBT card to the information booth for all card payments: credit, debit, and SNAP. Tell the market staff how much you’d like to spend at the market with your EBT card.
They will swipe your card, and then give you paper SNAP bucks. These bucks can be spent on any eligible food item that isn’t hot and ready at the market. Then, they will match the SNAP bucks $1 for $1 with Double Up Food Bucks, good for Colorado-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. They will match up to $20 per day.
At the farm stand: Bring your EBT card to a participating farm stand. Pick out your Colorado grown produce. When you go to pay with SNAP, get either 50% off your produce purchase or get $1 Double Up Food Buck for every $1 you spend with SNAP. Earn up to $20 per day.
At a Food Box or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A Food Box or CSA is a pre-packed box of fresh food that is sourced locally from farmers in your community. To use Double Up Food Bucks at a CSA or Food Box, order a box by going to a participating CSA’s website. Bring your EBT card to pick up your CSA box from the drop-off location. When you purchase a weekly CSA box with SNAP, you will get a weekly box free the following week.
At Save-A-Lot: At Save-A-Lot food stores in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Greeley, you can utilize Double Up Food Bucks when you use your EBT card at participating locations. Save your receipt at checkout and present it to the cashier on your NEXT purchase (within 60 days) at checkout to redeem your bucks to apply toward fresh produce.
What foods can you buy with SNAP Benefits in Colorado?
The SNAP program allows you to buy any food for the household, such as: Breads and cereals • Fruits and vegetables • Meats, fish and poultry • Dairy products • Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat • Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream • Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are also food items and are therefore eligible • Coffee, including instant coffee, coffee beans, ground coffee, and products such as single-serve coffee container pods
You cannot use SNAP benefits to buy: Beer, wine, liquor and cigarettes (or other forms of tobacco) • Pet foods • Soaps and paper products • Household supplies • Vitamins and medicines • Food that will be eaten in the store • Hot foods (or any food sold for on-premises consumption) • Live animals
NOTE: 2023 brings change in SNAP benefits
March 1, 2023 marked the end of SNAP “Emergency Allotments.” These extra SNAP funds began about three years ago as a way to help families experiencing hunger during the pandemic. The termination of these extra allotments means most recipients will see a noticeable drop in monthly benefits. This comes at a difficult time because the typical U.S. household is spending more each month to buy the same items it did a year ago. Seventeen states had already cut payments earlier in the year, and March is the first month that all SNAP benefits—including Colorado’s—will revert back to typical amounts nationwide.
Everyday Eats for Coloradans
Everyday Eats, another AgeWise Colorado Provider (https://agewisecolorado.org/provider/everyday-eats/), is a food support program for qualifying Coloradans age 60+ to help keep healthy food staples in their kitchens. It is known nationally as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. With Everyday Eats, participants can pick up a monthly package of cereal, canned goods and dairy with plenty of low-sodium, diabetic-friendly options to make nutritious, complete meals.
How do you qualify for Everyday Eats for Colorado?
You are eligible for Everyday Eats if you are age 60 or older, live in Colorado, and meet low-income criteria as shown in this table:
|Household size||Monthly maximum household income||Annual maximum household income|
|Add per extra family member||$512||$6,136|
How does Everyday Eats work in Colorado?
Simply find your closest pickup point on this map (click on any symbol on the map to see the specific name and address of the pick-up point) or call 303.866.5106 or toll free 888.467.0418 for help locating one. Bring in a photo ID. You may print and fill out the application (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L4XwwQ4Za-zBkz7n7D6p1GZKZAHUzkvv/view) to bring with you or your pick-up point will have one for you to complete there.
If you want family, friends or neighbors to be able to pick up your food for you in the future, be sure to list them on a proxy form (available in English, Spanish and Russian) to ensure you never miss a month!
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Colorado.
Another CDHS-managed program that older Coloradans might benefit from is The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
TEFAP is a federally funded program that provides USDA foods to low-income households through a supplemental food box. The USDA foods are delivered to food banks across the state and then distributed to local food pantries and soup kitchens that distribute directly to the people. Visit the TEFAP page for eligibility and signup information.
CDHS offers additional information on nutrition services and food assistance for older Coloradans on its website at https://cdhs.colorado.gov/our-services/older-adult-services/state-unit-on-aging/nutrition-services-for-older-adults. There you’ll find information on programs funded by the federal Older Americans Act and the state’s Older Coloradans Act. Colorado nutrition services for older adults include:
- Congregate meals -Senior centers, senior apartments, recreation centers and churches are examples of locations that serve meals in a group setting. Meals are designed to meet the current dietary reference intakes and the dietary guidelines for Americans.
- Home-delivered meals -At times, an illness or hospitalization make it difficult to prepare a nutritious meal. In these situations, it is reassuring to know that a hot, nutritious meal will be delivered by a caring volunteer.
- Nutrition screening, education, and counseling
- Nutrition screening evaluates the nutritional health of consumers using the nutrition screening initiative tool on the consumer information assessment. The nutrition screening initiative was developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Dietetic Association, and others to promote the integration of nutrition screening and intervention into health care for older adults.
- Nutrition education takes the idea of a healthy, nutritious meal and carries it throughout the day. Topics include practical suggestions to extend the nutrition dollar, good food sources of specific nutrients, eating for chronic illness and safe food preparation.
- Nutrition counseling is performed by a registered dietitian, or individual with equivalent expertise, and may be available to those who score at high nutrition risk on the nutrition screening initiative tool.
- Physical activity -Adults are living longer and enjoying life more due to the increases in lifespan and quality of life sustained by physical activity and exercise. Healthy aging programs include Steps to Healthy Aging, fall prevention and Eat Better/Move More.
Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to take advantage of these nutrition services in Colorado. You can link to AAAs on our website by clicking the Provider Directory tab, followed by clicking on the button link to “View Area Agencies on Aging” (https://agewisecolorado.org/aging-advocacy/area-agencies-on-aging/).
Another Resource for You
Hunger Free Colorado
As mentioned at the start of this article, Hunger Free Colorado leads efforts to connect families and individuals to food resources and fuel change in systems and policies so that no Coloradan goes hungry. Go to https://agewisecolorado.org/provider/hunger-free-colorado/ to learn more about available programs and resources for individuals, families, children and seniors, or call the bilingual, statewide Hunger Free Hotline toll-free at 855.855.4626 or in the Denver Metro area .720.382.2920 to get connected to food resources by phone.
Hunger Free Colorado describes itself as a “one-stop shop for food resources across Colorado” with information on community resources, food and nutrition programs, and other public benefits designed to support you and your loved ones. On this site you can filter your information needs and interests by age, by user type, or by location. Then you can click “Learn More” to find specifics on each resource, such as eligibility requirements and how to apply.