Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Apply for Food Stamps

For those who have a low amount of income, it can start to become difficult trying to keep yourself and/or your family fed while also paying all of the bills. If it turns out that you keep having trouble making ends meet, you might want to consider applying for what’s called the SNAP program, or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. This program is more commonly known as “food stamps”, and the process of applying is different for every state. Many states offer online applications, but some may only have an in-person method of applying. Either way, it’s pretty straightforward getting started.

Getting Information

You can get started by visiting the USDA government website, which has a lot of information as to how to apply, the kind of benefits you get, and so on. They also have information listings for every state, so that you can quickly get going.

Once you’ve gone through the process of applying, you’ll receive what’s called an EBT card, which essentially acts as a special debit card that can only be used on certain food-related purchases (mostly groceries). Typically they cannot be used for fast food, restaurants, or general spending. SNAP is purely for grocery items and more nutritional foods.


Applying online is the easiest and most straightforward way to get food stamps, but unfortunately not every state offers an online application. The USDA website will give you precise listings as to which states have online applications, as well as links to their respective websites which you can follow and get started. Some of the states that allow online applications include California, Washington, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, Texas, Utah, and many more.

It should be noted that you cannot apply for food stamps directly on the FNS website. It must be completed on your respective state’s website.

In Person

If your state does not offer online applications, or you would prefer not to apply online, you can instead contact your local SNAP office. The USDA website allows you to select a state and get a listing of local SNAP offices with addresses, directions, and so on.

The only problem with applying in person is that the nearest SNAP office may be quite far away. If you find that you’re always struggling for food, however, it can be well worth the trip especially if you don’t have access to an Internet connection and/or computer.

Other Thoughts

Although food stamps are primarily designed for nutritious food items that are to be consumed at home, they can still be used for non-nutritious items such as ice cream, cakes, crackers, and so on. The government currently does not forbid these items from being purchased, but you should keep in mind that you’ll only have a limited amount of money to buy food. Thus, it should be used wisely. Not to mention, avoiding junk food is better for your health in the long run, even if it does seem to fill you up for the moment. Either way, food stamps are of enormous help when you’re low on funds and just need to sustain yourself.

How To Use Your EBT Card

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is the system that allows those who are eligible for food stamps to receive their benefits. In the past this was simply known as the federal food stamp program.

You can use your EBT card to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages. They are distributed via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This article will tell you how to use your EBT card. 

      First of all, ensure that you in a SNAP participating store. These will usually be indicated by signs saying that they are members of SNAP. If you are unsure, ask one of the cashiers or anyone at the service counter. As an example, the signs may read, "We Accept Food Stamps, EBT, or SNAP Benefits.”
      Go ahead and choose your groceries. You can purchase most types of items that you would find in a grocery store: meats, dairy, produce, etc. In addition, seeds that that grow into edible foods are eligible as well.
      Bear in mind there are certain food items you cannot buy with your EBT card.

      These include

      Cigarettes and alcohol
      Medicines and vitamins
      Any food eaten in the store
      Hot foods
      Items that are not edible, such as paper products, laundry supplies, and pet foods.

      At the check-out, your EBT card is swiped.
      Enter your PIN and then press Enter.
      Tell the clerk how much money to enter or enter the purchase amount yourself. Remember, you can only buy eligible food items with your food benefits.
      Check your receipt to make sure that the amount on the EBT receipt is the same as your grocery receipt.

Other Things Of Note

The EBT card can be used in all 50 states, even if you have been enrolled in the program in one particular state. (The EBT card cannot be used in Puerto Rico but it can in Guam, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

In addition to this, any food stamps that you do not use in 1 month will roll over to the following month. Please be aware though that if you do not use your SNAP card for  longer than 12 months, you will lose your entitlement to receive benefits.

Finally, whilst SNAP is a federal program run by the United State's Department of Agriculture, eligibility is different umong each individual state and each state has its own criteria and rules for eligibility. Contact your local SNAP office to find out if you're eligible for SNAP benefits.