Getting food stamps is a great way to buy food for you and your family if you are low on funds.
This is a way that the government ensures no one goes hungry in America, despite whatever conditions you may currently be facing. Low-income families and individuals are able to sign up for food stamp benefits to put food on the table and they’re quite simple to get if you know the right information.
What are Food Stamps?
Food Stamps (also referred to as SNAP benefits in this article) are vouchers offered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in exchange for food at grocery stores, convenience stores, some farmers’ market, and co-op food programs. This helps you buy healthy food and stretch your food budget for your family when in times of need. It is overseen by the USDA on the federal level, but states are the ones to oversee SNAP benefits for their citizens.
SNAP benefits are given to you through an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card, and it works like a debit card. Just swipe it at the register and go on your way.
Applying for Food Stamps
There are two ways to apply for SNAP benefits:
- Contact your local SNAP office, which you can find on the USDA’s national map here. You can also contact the SNAP hotline number for your specific state to find out more information. However, do not contact the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) directly to apply, as they do not handle SNAP applications. Your best bet will be to contact a SNAP office or phone line itself.
- Fill out the online application form. You can find the online form for your state here. Follow the instructions that the form provides and be sure to answer every question thoroughly. Answering questions inaccurately or failing to answer a question can slow down the SNAP application and delay your attainment of SNAP benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions about Food Stamps/SNAP:
Who Uses SNAP?
All sorts of people use SNAP, even people you may not expect. People living alone, families, people with roommates, and homeless people can get SNAP. If you are working or have other regular income, such as Social Security or pension, you can still get SNAP. You do not have to have cash welfare or be out of work to get SNAP.
SNAP eligibility is determined by calculations that consider your family size, citizenship status, household income, and other expenses. It is a system designed to help people from a variety of backgrounds who are down on their luck.
Do You Qualify for Food Stamps?
To find if you qualify for SNAP benefits, go ahead and take this online pre-screening tool. Before you begin, have the amounts of your earnings, medical bills (if you are 60 or older or disabled), rent or mortgage, utility bills, child support payments, day care expenses, and SSI, social security or VA payments readily available. It will increase the application process tremendously to not have to pause and look up this information.
Also note that there may be special stipulations in place for applying for SNAP benefits, which the program will tell you. For example, if you live in California and receive SSI you might not be eligible for SNAP. Contact your county assistance office for more information.
After the screening, you will know if you are eligible for Food Stamps.
What Can I Buy with Food Stamps?
With your SNAP benefits, you may buy:
- Bread and cereals
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Dairy products
- Also, seeds and plants which produce food for households to eat
Some restaurants accept EBT from a qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled person in exchange for a non-expensive meal.
You cannot buy:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco
- Non-food items such as:
- Pet foods
- Soaps, paper products
- Household supplies
- Vitamins and medicines
- Food that will be eaten in the store
- Hot foods
For more information on what you can and cannot buy with EBT, click here.
What if I Need Food Stamps Quickly?
Then you will need to apply for SNAP expedited benefits, meaning you will get benefits within 7 days. To do this, go to closest Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office in order to apply.
To qualify for the expedited benefits, you must meet any of the three criteria below:
- Have a monthly income equality to lower than $150, and have below $100 in the savings
- Be a migrant worker with below $100 in savings
- Have income/money in the bank adding up to be less than the monthly housing expenses
It is my own home and not rented. Does that mean I can’t get SNAP?
You may still get SNAP even if you own your own home. In fact, your housing expenses will be deductible to determine your eligibility.
Do I need a permanent address to apply for SNAP benefits?
No, you may apply for SNAP even if you are homeless, in a shelter, or with friends or family on a temporary basis. Homeless people, as well as families without regular shelter expenses, are eligible for an automatic deduction from their income.
How Long do I have to wait for SNAP usually?
Up to 30 days.
How do I find out the status of my SNAP application?
First, contact your DTA caseworker or call the DTA Assistance Line at 1-877-382-2363. You can also see information on your application through the DTA’s My Accounts web page here.
Will SNAP show up on taxes?
No, it will not. SNAP isn’t considered income.
I’m not a US Citizen. Can I still apply for SNAP?
Yes, many non-citizens do, in fact, qualify for SNAP. Attaining SNAP doesn’t affect any application for a green card and/or citizenship. However, if you are unable to provide documented immigration status, then you cannot apply for yourself. But you may be able to apply for other eligible household members. Also, children born in the US (and thus have US citizenship) may receive SNAP even if their parents are not documented.
That was a comprehensive description of SNAP and Food Stamps. However, if you still have questions, you may contact Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333