SNAP Food Stamp Program
In 2008 the federal government renamed the Food Stamp Program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The goal of SNAP is to provide nutrition assistance to millions of families and individuals, and inject economic stimulus into their communities. The program currently works with each state, local organizations and certain nutrition specialists to help those who are eligible apply for and access these available benefits. By providing this assistance, these households are less likely to have to cut back on their food purchases and their household's nutrition.
Beyond just access to the program, SNAP also provides education assistance for lower income households to maintain a nutritious diet. This part of SNAP is known as SNAP-Ed, and the stated goal of SNAP-Ed is to help those with a limited budget to make healthy choices. To learn more about SNAP's nutrition education you can visit their website here. For more detailed information about nutrition, and other free resources for your personal health you can visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
If you would like more information about the SNAP program please watch the following video:
Using SNAP benefits is easy, typically the benefits will be ‘deposited' on a plastic card that works much like a bank debit card. This process is called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and is currently used for SNAP and Cash Assistance (TANF). Using EBT for food stamps does not cost you anything, for as long as you remain eligible some states will issue the benefits each month. The day that your benefits become available will depend on the last two digits of your case number, your Social Security number or date of birth (depending on your state). You can click here to view the benefits issuance schedules to find the day of the month your benefits should be available.
There are guidelines for what you can, and cannot, buy with SNAP benefits. Typically you can buy ‘standard' foods for your household like fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, dairy products, and proteins (meat, fish and poultry). You may also buy seeds and plants to grow food for your home.
Beneficiaries cannot buy non-food products like soap, paper and household supplies, medicines, or pet food. SNAP also restricts the purchase of meals that are eaten in a store, hot food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. For more information about what can and cannot be purchased please visit the USDA's website here.
Exceptions to the above in-store restriction: In some areas authorized in-store meal providers can accept SNAP from certain homeless, disabled or elderly recipients.
Do not forget that if the available benefits are not used within 365 days they will be removed from your account. There is no way to have any removed benefits replaced or re-issued.
Eligibility for SNAP
There are a few different criteria that will determine your eligibility for SNAP benefits. It is based on a household's combined gross monthly income, which will be dependent on the number of people in your household, and there are limits on resources (bank accounts, cash, stocks, etc.).
Applicants must also be U.S. citizens or legal and qualified aliens. Other immigrants, like refugees and children, can also receive SNAP. Those that live in the same household with ineligible members may still apply for and receive SNAP benefits. Any immigrant receiving SNAP will not be deported or denied entry. It will have no impact on their ability to obtain citizenship.
The USDA provides a pre-screening tool to help you find out if you may be eligible for SNAP benefits. This tool will also give you an estimate of the amount of monthly benefits that you may receive. Please click here to use the pre-screening tool.
Applying for SNAP
In order to begin receiving SNAP you must apply. For state specific applications you can begin by entering your zip code above.
In order to begin receiving SNAP you must apply. For state specific applications you can begin by entering your zip code above. You can also find your State's application information on the USDA's website by clicking here. They also provide a locator map to find your local SNAP application office.
Once you apply you will either be approved or denied within 30 days. If you are in great need you may receive benefits within 7 days. Once approved you can use this link to determine what day you will receive your benefits.
In 2012 SNAP distributed about $75 Billion dollars in food assistance. The program serves approximately 50 million people and they receive on average about $135.00 per month.
If you already recieve these beenfits, and need to locate a retailer that accepts SNAP benefits, you can use the USDA's SNAP retail locator website application. I link to this site is listed below.
SNAP Retailer Locator: www.snapretailerlocator.com