How to Get Food Stamps

How to Get Food Stamps

Food stamps -- the colloquial name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP -- are vouchers that participating households receive to help cover the costs of their monthly grocery bill. SNAP provides billions of dollars in food vouchers and nutritional support to over 30 million people each year. Though the program is federally funded, SNAP benefits are regulated and dispensed at a state level. Therefore, you will need to contact your state SNAP, Social Security or other welfare office to apply and get food stamps.

What You Need

To get food stamps, you will need some documents to prove who you are. If you are applying for food stamps for your entire household, you will also need documents for each individual member of your household to prove their identities, as well. At the very least, you should have:

  • Current, valid photo identification (such as your driver’s license or passport)*
  • Original or certified copy of birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Green card (if you are a permanent resident)

*For children under the age of 18, a passport, military card or school identification card will satisfy this requirement. For younger children not yet in school and for infants, no photo identification is required. However, you may have to bring your children with you to your local SNAP or Social Security Administration office for verification.

You will also need to show proof of your entire household’s income and available resources. For this, you will need:

  • Last four paystubs for each working adult
  • Most recent income tax return for each adult
  • Most recent checking/savings account statement(s) for every household member
  • Most recent utility bills to prove expenses (excluding cell phones, cable and internet)
  • Most recent mortgage or rent bill or statement
  • Most recent statements for other benefits you/other household members receive (like Social Security Disability, TANF or WIC)
  • Statements for any investments, trusts or bonds for each adult, if applicable

Where to Apply

To apply for food stamps, visit your local SNAP, welfare or Social Security Administration agency. You (or the head-of-household, if that is not you) must complete an application form, which will ask for each household member’s personal information. You must provide this information for every adult and child in your household for whom you are applying for food stamps. You will need to know each household member’s:

  • Full, legal name
  • Age
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Employer, if applicable
  • Total monthly income
  • Total available resources
  • Total amount of benefits received from other social welfare programs

When you are finished completing the application, return it to a representative at the office. You will then need to schedule a formal interview, which will likely occur at a later time. You must attend this interview if you want to get food stamps for you and your family. If there are young children in your household, remember to ask if you need to bring them with you when you return for your interview.

Your SNAP Interview

On the day of your SNAP interview, arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early, especially if your interview is scheduled early in the morning or immediately preceding lunchtime. Bring along documents for each of your household members that you previously compiled, along with anything else you think you may need. Be prepared to spend up to a few hours at the office, especially if you live in a highly-populated city or urban area. If you need to bring your children with you, bring snacks and small books or toys to keep them occupied in the meantime.

When your name is called, go to the window where you were directed to go. Here, you will sit down face to face with a SNAP or welfare agent. The agent will ask for your name and information, and then explain how the program works. Provide your identification and financial documents, which the agent will review and make copies for the office’s records. You will then discuss your household, your income, and what SNAP can do to help. When the interview is over, the SNAP agent will determine your eligibility. If you qualify, the agent will then tell you how much your household qualifies for in food stamp benefits and when those benefits will begin. You likely won’t receive any food stamps that day, but your benefits will arrive in the mail within a few weeks if you are approved. As soon as you receive your food vouchers or EBT card, you can start using your benefits.

It is very important that you remain honest throughout the entire interview. If you conceal information about your household size, income or resources, SNAP can terminate your benefits and you will have to pay back anything you were not supposed to receive immediately. The state can also temporarily or even permanently suspend your benefits for other programs, like TANF or Social Security benefits, if you are caught lying.

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