Here’s a new wrinkle in the USDA’s multi-million dollar, taxpayer-funded ad campaigns promoting food stamp dependency (see here and here). As Fox News reported, “Forget Tupperware bashes and toga soirees — the latest rage is food stamp parties.”

This is just one of many “helpful” hints from the USDA’s new pamphlet “The Right Mix for Reaching Seniors.” Among the 15 “Fresh Ideas for Reaching Seniors,” the USDA recommends:


Go Along for the Ride. Partner with transportation services that take seniors on errands or to appointments; have materials on hand that include the myths and facts about SNAP benefits.


Be Part of a Road Show. Make a list of health-related support groups aimed at seniors, such as those focusing on diabetes, arthritis, low vision, prostate or breast cancer, and stroke—and offer to make mini-presentations about SNAP and its benefits. 


Consider Furry Friends. According to Meals on Wheels, about 60 percent of seniors who receive their services live with pets. Target organizations and veterinarians that provide discounted services for seniors, such as the Humane Society. 


Take It Back to School.  If you live in one of the areas (typically in the South) where grandparents raising children is more common, partner with your local school district to distribute information through school events and staff. Make sure to include PTA meetings, school meal service directors and child nutrition professionals, school counselors, school nurses, and athletic coaches.


Put It In a Backpack. Send information home with children who receive free or reduced-price lunch. You may want to consider timing this for the beginning of the school year or at the end of grading periods as children may begin to live with a guardian mid-school year.


But don’t think that the USDA has forgotten Baby Boomers—here are some ideas for reaching out to them, too!


Forget Labels. Boomers view themselves as young and vibrant and typically won’t respond to anything aimed at “seniors.” Resist using this label and other age-related expressions, like “golden years.”


Go Online. Nearly three-fourths of Baby Boomers go online at least once a month. Tap into sites like AARP Foundation’s online community or senior-oriented social networking sites.


Here’s an idea the USDA didn’t recommend. Use all this outreach to friends and neighbors to find out who’s in need and pitch in to prepare meals on a regular basis in their homes or yours. Invite those in need over for meals. Even those of us who can be culinarily challenged (like me) can heat up store-bought dinners or lunches or put together some sandwiches.

Spending time together over meals builds real communities instead of dependency—and lets friends and neighbors in need know you care about them, rather than considering them somebody else’s problem.