What is SNAP?
SNAP is the short name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The SNAP program has the twin goals of improving health by combating hunger and increasing nutrition knowledge for better food choices.
Am I eligible?
SNAP eligibility guidelines have been expanded. The income thresholds have been increased and now more people will qualify for benefits.
The guidelines concerning what you can own have changed too. You can own your home, a plot of land, and a vehicle and still qualify. And most retirement pensions are not counted when determining eligibility.
Some states have guidelines that allow assets above the federal minimum guidelines. You can use the SNAP Pre-screening tool to determine if you may be eligible.
How Much Will I Receive?
The amount of SNAP benefits you receive will be determined by your state’s local administering organization, such as the Department of Social Services. Your specific information, such as the number of people in your family, your income, and other factors will be used to determine benefit amount.
You might be surprised to see how much difference even a minimal benefit amount can make in your family’s ability to eat healthy. The MoreFood.org website’s “Sweet $16” offers a variety of fun and smart ways to maximize SNAP benefits. And remember, each menu or recipe represents one month only and SNAP benefits are received each month!
Why Should I Apply?
While the average benefit amount will vary from state to state, SNAP benefits can make a real difference in your efforts to have a healthy diet for you and your family. But the main reason that people should apply is because SNAP can be an important resource in helping you and your family to have enough food to eat. SNAP benefits:
- are on-going, long-term assistance rather than emergency or day-to-day assistance. This means you can plan meals in advance.
- allow you to purchase and consume the foods that you prefer to eat, rather than what’s being served at a meal site or what’s in stock at the food pantry.
- give you the flexibility to shop at any store that accepts these benefits, rather than being limited to a nearby pantry.
- can be used at many farmers’ markets to buy fresh produce for your family and to support your local farmers.
- assist you in meeting your other household expenses. By spending SNAP benefits on groceries, you can shift your budgeted grocery dollars to other uses.
- generate economic activity in your community, every $5 in SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in community spending. And SNAP spending generates farm jobs.
- allow agencies that provide emergency food services to focus their efforts on helping people without any other ways to obtain food. By using SNAP benefits you help yourself, and in turn help these agencies maintain their capacity to help others – especially during these tough economic times when need is so high, and agency funding and resources are so limited.
How Do I Apply?
To apply for benefits, contact your local SNAP or Department of Social Services office. Or you can use USDA’s national map to find the SNAP office for your county.
For some states you can apply online. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to go to the SNAP office. You may be able to download an application from your state agency’s website to mail in or you may be able to call your agency to request that an application be mailed to you. In some states, you can request to have a telephone interview with the SNAP representative.
How Long Does It Take For Benefits to Start?
Ask your local SNAP office about their standard processing time. In some states your SNAP application will be processed within 30 days; or, if it’s an emergency, within 7 days. Your local SNAP office can give you the most current information about regular and emergency application processing times.