Food Stamps: Who Is Eligible and How to Use Them

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, abbreviated as SNAP, is a federal program created by the United States Department of Agriculture. They are also known as Food Stamps among the locals. The program helps Americans with low incomes supplement their budgets for groceries and can be used for purchasing food for the household, including:

  • meat;
  • vegetables;
  • fruits;
  • fish;
  • poultry;
  • dairy products;
  • cereals;
  • bread.

However, the program’s assistance doesn’t cover all types of purchases. Particularly, food stamps can’t be spent on:

  • cigarettes;
  • alcohol;
  • medicine;
  • pet foods;
  • hot foods;
  • nonfood products like cleaning supplies, clothes, furniture, etc.

Neither can it be used at real money casinos.


The US Department of Agriculture credits a fixed amount on the beneficiary’s Electronic Benefits Transfer card (EBT) monthly, and the funds can be used in most stores nationwide.

Who Is Eligible for Food Stamps

Food stamps appear to be pretty effective in defending the locals against food insecurity. Getting included in the program is beneficial for anyone, yet certain conditions exist that determine whether the person is eligible for it. Let’s clarify this point.

Food stamps are designed for American citizens and most legal immigrants who are currently unemployed due to economic crises in the country or those Americans who have been affected by natural disasters like Cyclones, Hurricanes, and Pandemics.


The applicant for the SNAP program must have an income equal to or lower than 130% of the poverty line (in most cases, as the threshold can differ from state to state). For the year 2024, this poverty line for a person has been set at $1,215. Accordingly, the applicant’s monthly gross income must be a maximum of $1,580. The poverty line for a family with three members is $2,072 per month, which means the gross income for the reference time must be up to $2,694. Obviously, these metrics increase as the number of family members changes.

Disabled and elderly people are eligible for the maximum SNAP benefits. For the senior SNAP eligibility criteria, the applicant must be over 60. Furthermore, if the person receives SSDI, they are considered disabled for SNAP purposes and can deduct a part of their medical expenses from the income.

How to Apply for Food Stamps

To find out if you are eligible for food stamps, you must complete the application and submit it to your state agency. Generally, it’s the social services office or the human services office of the state. 

Depending on your residence, you can contact the office over the phone, online, or via mail, as the amount of in-person traffic at such offices is almost always immense regardless of the state.So, to apply for the SNAP program, you must complete these few steps:

  1. Look for the nearest SNAP office and visit it, or check if you can apply online.
  2. Ask for the Food Stamps Application form and fill it up.
  3. Attach/submit all required documents. This can include the birth certificate, ID card or driver’s license, proof of income, SSNs of all family members, statements about any federal benefits you get, rent/mortgage payment statements, docs on daycare or child support payments, and medical expense statements.
  4. Submit the completed form to the SNAP office of your state.
  5. Some time later (it takes from days to weeks), the office will contact you for an interview. During it, they will discuss your submitted form with you. And so your eligibility for the program will either be verified or declined.

If you get approval, you will be issued an EBT card and receive the Food Stamps benefits on a monthly basis.

How the Answer Is Calculated

The answer for your SNAP application will be determined by calculating the limits of two incomes – gross and net. The premier one is the general income, while the net income is calculated by subtracting specific deductions like childcare expenses or housing costs. They also count most different assets, like bonds, stocks, and bank accounts

If you have any fears regarding your house, note that whether or not its value will be added towards your eligibility for the SNAP program, depends on its use. If you are living in that house and have no other property registered under your name, you have nothing to worry about. But if you have more than one property (you might provide it for rent or not), most likely, you will get a rejection.

A similar scenario can be observed with vehicles. They may be counted as assets or not, again, depending on their number and use. For instance, if you only have one car with a price not higher than $1,500 and use it to get to your workplace, transport a family member who is disabled, or earn your living (like in case of a taxi or lorry), they won’t count its value as an asset. In all other cases, your automobile may serve as a problem for getting a SNAP program approval.

It’s also noteworthy that the “income” calculated for determining whether the applicant is eligible for food stamps or not includes not only the earned funds or wages but also unearned income like disability, veterans, and death benefits, as well as SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). This can also include income from playing real money slots, winning the lottery and other profitable entertainment.

The Bottom Line

The USA is known worldwide as a dream country with numerous opportunities to earn a respectable living for you and your family. However, no one is ensured against natural disasters, disabilities, or simply work crises.

To help its citizens cope with financial difficulties which are simply inevitable in such scenarios, the United States Department of Agriculture has introduced the SNAP program (also referred to as Food Stamps). It provides a specific amount of funds credited to the EBT card and the user can spend them on some products, like groceries, dairy products, vegetables, and so forth.

Now you know what benefits you can get from it by being a US citizen or a legal immigrant and if you are eligible for it. Use this information wisely and improve your lifestyle.

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About the author

I have always been a shopaholic. A lot of times my questions went unanswered when it came to retail questions, so I started Talk Radio News. - Caitlyn Johnson

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