Many families do not know where their next meal is coming from. If they do have money for groceries, they may have to buy more processed, less nutritious food because fresh produce and meat are more expensive than boxes of macaroni and cheese or store brand sugary cereal. In order for these families to be able to afford and obtain nutritious food, they should be introduced to and utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
WHAT IS SNAP?
SNAP offers healthy nourishment help to low-income individuals and families so that they can get nutritious food on their table for all meals. It stretches families’ food budget so that they can buy healthier food. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with State agencies, registered nutritionists, local neighborhood, and religious groups to make sure there is outreach to get all individuals and families that qualify for the SNAP program enrolled in the program.
Those who qualify receive a debit card, known as an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card to purchase groceries. When an individual has an SNAP EBT card, they can only purchase items that are on the approved list. Items on the list include foods, such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and dairy products. They can also purchase seeds and plants that produce food for the family. Growing their own fruit and vegetables can be a great sustainable way for families to keep produce in stock. Some seasonal farmer’s markets also take SNAP benefits as payment too. Items that are not covered by SNAP are beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco, pet food, soaps, paper products, vitamins, medicines, food that will be eaten in the store, and hot foods.
There are specific guidelines that are followed in order to qualify individuals and families for SNAP benefits. There is a pre-screening tool on the USDA FNS website (www.fns.usda.gov/snap), which is a good place to start. The areas that are taken into account when someone applies for SNAP are personal monetary resources, income, employment requirements, allowed deductions, citizenship status, and special rules for households with elderly or disabled members. There is no one rule that establishes a person’s eligibility for SNAP.
The basic equation for figuring out how much an individual or family will receive if they qualify is multiplying net income by 30% and subtract that amount from the maximum monthly allotment set forth by the USDA FNS. That is the individual/family allotment for the month. The maximum monthly allotment ranges from $194 for a 1-person household to $1169 for an 8-person household.
WHO CAN USE SNAP?
People who receive SNAP should not also be receiving welfare benefits. That is a totally separate program. Individuals, families, the homeless, people receiving Social Security or a pension, the elderly and the disabled can all qualify for SNAP. Visit the website (www.fns.usda.gov/snap) to see what the qualification guidelines are.
- Use the Internet tool to check your eligibility.
- Call or go to your local SNAP office – info line: 1-800-221-5689
- Get a SNAP application form – online or at the office
- Fill out the application.
- Return your application to a local SNAP office.
- Make an appointment for a SNAP interview.
- Gather all papers and information needed for the interview.
- Go to SNAP office for an interview.
- If you obtain approval, go buy your healthy, fresh food with your SNAP EBT card.
- If you do not obtain approval, ask why you didn’t qualify.