Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are a form of government assistance designed to help low-income individuals and families purchase food. The program provides eligible participants with a monthly allowance that can be used to buy food at grocery stores, supermarkets, and other approved retailers.
To access food stamps, you will need to apply for SNAP benefits through your state’s SNAP agency. Eligibility requirements vary by state, but generally, you must have a household income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level and meet other criteria such as citizenship and residency requirements.
To apply for SNAP benefits, you can visit your state’s SNAP agency website, download an application form, and mail it in or submit it online. You may also be able to apply in person at a local SNAP office or over the phone.
Once your application is approved, you will be issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card and can be used to purchase eligible food items. The amount of benefits you receive each month will depend on your household size, income, and other factors.
It’s important to note that SNAP benefits are meant to supplement a household’s food budget, not cover all food expenses. You will still need to budget and plan your meals accordingly.
What Are Food Stamps?
“SNAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families that qualify as low- or no-income purchase food,” Carter Seuthe, chief executive officer of Credit Summit, says.
Families can use food stamps to buy certain foods for the household, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, breads, and cereals. You cannot use food stamps to purchase alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, or nonfood items like cleaning supplies.
Millions of Americans receive support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to purchase healthy food. SNAP benefits, also commonly called food stamps, act as a safety net for low-income households during personal challenges, such as losing a job or going through a national economic crisis.
SNAP participation during the pandemic peaked at 43 million individuals in June 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and participation was down to 41 million in 2022.