How to Apply for Food Stamps

Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), help low-income people buy food. It was started in 1939 by Henry Wallace, the then Secretary of Agriculture and is run by Department of Agriculture. Although it's administered by the Department of Agriculture, benefits are distributed by the individual states.

The number of Americans receiving food stamps is now 46.3 million. This number has been rapidly climbing since 2001 when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization and American companies shifted production to Chinese sweatshops causing millions of American jobs to be lost.

Who is Eligible for Food Stamps

To get be eligible for food stamps, your, households must meet certain requirements:


Households may have a maximum of $2,000 in assets, or $3,250 if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled. However, certain assets are NOT counted, such as a home. The procedures for handling vehicles varies by state. In most States vehicles are not counted. However many States exclude only the value of one vehicle per household. A few states subtract a certain amount from the market value to determine the countable value of a vehicle.


A household of 3 people cannot have gross monthly income of more than $2,008. The maximum income depends upon the number of people in the household. A 1 person household cannot have gross monthly income of more than $1,180, while a 6 person household cannot have gross monthly income of more than $3,249.


Every able-bodied adult member of a household must be working or looking for work. If any adult member of the household is not working, they may be required to register for work or to participate in a work-training program. If they fail to accept work that's offered to them, the food stamps benefit may be reduced or eliminated.

In general, individuals who work for low wages, are unemployed or work part-time, receive public assistance, are elderly or disabled and have a small income, or are homeless may be eligible for food stamps.

The easiest way to determine if your household is eligible for food stamps is to use the online eligibility pre-screening tool.

How Much Will the Food Stamp Benefit Be?

The Food Stamp benefit depends upon the number of members in the household. A household with 1 person will get about $200 per month. A household with eight individuals will get about $1,202 per month.

The food stamp benefits are delivered on an electronic card which works like a bank debit card. Like a debit card, the food stamp program user swipes the card in a point-of-sale device (POS) and enters their four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). The amount of the purchase is then deducted from the household’s food stamp account.

There are many things that you are not allowed to buy with your Food Stamp Benefit. You are not allowed to buy nonfood items such as soap, paper products, toothpaste, cosmetics, and so on. You are not allowed to buy pet food, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, or medicine.

You are not allowed to buy any food that will be eaten in the store, such as fast food, or and hot foods, such a pizza delivery. Your Food Stamp Benefit can be used to buy food, and it can also be used to buy seeds and plants to grow food for your household to eat.

Where and How to Apply for Food Stamps

You can apply for food stamps at any local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) office or Social Security office. Normally the applicant must apply in person and have a face-to-face interview, however if the applicant is unable to go to the office because of age or disability, the office interview may be waived and the official may interview by telephone or do a home visit. Many SNAP program offices now allow online applications.

You'll need certain information when you apply for food stamps including:

If You're employed you'll need proof of your earnings, usually your last four pay stubs. If You're unemployed you'll need proof that your employment was terminated and information about any unemployment benefits that you are receiving.

You'll need information about all household assets and resources. Bring all household savings account and checking account statements. You'll need information about all stocks, bonds, savings certificates, annuity funds and credit union membership, etc.

Bring a copy of your income tax return for past year. If you're self employed, bring your profit and loss statement for the current calendar quarter.

College students will need to bring proof of education expenses (tuition) and proof of any income such as loans, scholarships, earnings.

Bring the Social Security number for each member of your household. If a member of your household does not have a Social Security number, your food stamp certifier will assist you in obtaining one.

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