In this section, you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Scroll down to learn more about the requirements and eligibility for the program.

What does SNAP stand for?

SNAP is short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program. SNAP was formerly known as the Food Stamps Program (FSP). 

How many people use SNAP in the United States?

Around 41.5 million Americans, or 13% of the total population, received SNAP assistance in 2021. More than half of all SNAP beneficiaries are in families with children, while one-third are in families with a member who is either an older adult or disabled.

Who uses SNAP?

SNAP benefits are available to single adults, families, seniors, and employed individuals. SNAP recipients represent different races and ethnicities: 37% White, 26% African American, 16% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% Native American.

What is the income limit for food stamps?

The eligibility for SNAP is based primarily on your household income and certain expenses. To qualify, you must be at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). In 2022, the FPL income for a family of four is $27,750 per year. 

What is the average SNAP benefit?

The amount of the SNAP benefit depends on your income and expenses. The estimated average monthly SNAP benefit for 2023 is $197 for a single person and $718 for a family of four. 

What percent of the people who are eligible participate in SNAP? 

Over 80% of eligible individuals receive SNAP benefits. 

Where can SNAP benefits be used?

SNAP benefits can be used for purchasing eligible food items at retailers such as:

  • Grocery stores
  • Supermarkets
  • Specialty stores
  • Superstores (Walmart, Target)
  • Pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens)
  • Farmers markets
  • Local food co-ops
  • Convenience stores
  • Gas stations
  • Amazon.

To be eligible, the retailer must sell at least seven varieties of food in each of four basic categories: 

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Bread or cereal
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products. 

In addition, the retailer must offer perishable food items in at least three of the above categories.

Can I use food stamps in a restaurant?

It is generally not possible to use food stamps for hot meals prepared in a restaurant for immediate consumption. However, some states offer the SNAP Restaurants Meal Program for elderly, disabled, and homeless beneficiaries.

How can I find the nearest SNAP-authorized retailer? 

The USDA provides a SNAP Retailer Locator tool to help find stores that accept SNAP. Most SNAP-authorized retailers post signs indicating that they accept food stamps. 

What can SNAP benefits buy?

You can use SNAP to purchase any of the following food items:

  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Live seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and cereal
  • Bakery items, cakes, cookies, and candies
  • Energy drinks that have a nutrition label
  • Seeds and plants that will produce food for the household
  • Soft drinks
  • Edible pumpkins
  • Ice cream.

Foods that are not covered by SNAP

It is not possible to use SNAP benefits to purchase the following items: 

  • Foods that will be eaten in the store
  • Accessory foods (spices, seasonings, condiments)
  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, and tobacco
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Pet food
  • Hot foods
  • Non-food items.

What is the Thrifty Food Plan?

The Thrifty Food Plan is the cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy, budget-conscious diet for a family of four, as determined by the USDA. The amount of the SNAP benefit is updated each year based on the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan. 

How long do SNAP benefits last?

Benefit periods for SNAP range from one month to three years. The active period during which you are eligible to receive benefits is called a certification period. If you want to continue receiving SNAP assistance after the end of your certification period, you will have to recertify for benefits. 

How long does it take for food stamps to get on the card after being approved?

SNAP benefits are housed on the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card which functions in the same way as any debit card. The funds will be added to your EBT card as soon as your application for food stamps is processed. This can take up to 30 days.

How many food stamps does a homeless person get?

It is not mandatory to have a permanent address in order to apply for food stamps. This means that people who live on the street, stay temporarily with family or friends, or stay in a shelter are eligible for SNAP benefits.

Homeless individuals with no income can qualify for up to $192 per month in food stamps. The maximum amount for a homeless household of two people is $353 per month. 

If you are homeless, you are not limited to using SNAP benefits at grocery stores. You can use them at other facilities, such as soup kitchens and shelters. 

How long does it take to get food stamps after the interview?

If your interview is successful and you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you will receive your EBT card within 30 days.

If you meet certain criteria, for example, you have little or no income, you may be eligible for expedited service. In this case, funds will be available within seven days from the date of application.

What happens if you get caught lying for food stamps?

Food stamp fraud consists in intentionally providing misleading information about the size of your household or the amount of your income on a SNAP application, or buying items that are not covered by SNAP benefits. 

Depending on the state, food stamp fraud may carry severe consequences, including hefty fines and potential jail time.

When applying for food stamps do they check your bank accounts?

When applying for SNAP benefits, you will be required to submit proof of your monthly income and liquid assets such as cash, bond, and stocks. The Federal Government also requires verification of citizenship, Social Security numbers, and other qualifying information. Your Department of Social Services or food stamp issuing office may request current bank statements as part of the application process. 

How long do you have to wait to reapply for food stamps?

If you are eligible for food stamps, you may benefit from the SNAP program for anywhere between 3 months and 3 years, depending on your circumstances. For most single adults between the ages of 18-50, the eligibility period is 3 months, and up to 6 months for families. 

After this period, you are required to reapply in order to continue to qualify. Recertifications are not considered to be new SNAP applications but a continuation of your current application. Note that there is no waiting period and you can reapply for benefits immediately.

When can I reapply for food stamps if my application is denied? 

If your SNAP application is refused, you are allowed to reapply for food stamps at any time. There is no mandatory waiting period after the first application. 

How much money can you have in the bank and still get food stamps?

As of 2022, households applying for food stamps are allowed to have $2,750 in countable assets, or up to $4,250 if at least one member of the household is over the age of 60 or disabled. 

Countable assets include checking and saving bank accounts, in addition to properties other than the primary residence. Social Security income, pension plans, and TANF are not included in countable assets.

If my food stamps are ending, how long do I have to use my balance?

In most states, food stamps expire 365 days after they are uploaded to your EBT card. If you don’t use those benefits before the food stamp expiration date, you will lose the funds on your card. 

You may also lose your funds permanently if you don’t use your EBT card for nine months (274 days) or more. 

Can I use the remaining funds on my card if I lose SNAP eligibility?

If you are no longer eligible for SNAP, you can still use the remaining funds on your EBT card. 

Do I have to use SNAP benefits the same month I receive them?

No. If you have a balance left on your EBT card at the end of the month, the remaining amount will roll over to the next month.

How long does it take to get a food stamps card in the mail?

You can expect to receive your EBT card in the mail after 5-10 business days after you have been approved for the SNAP benefits program. The exact timeframe will depend on your state of residence. 

What if I receive my card before my application is approved?

You may receive your EBT card before your SNAP application is fully processed. In this case, the card will have a $0 balance and you will not be able to use it immediately. Your SNAP benefits will be uploaded to the card once your food stamp application is approved, which can take up to 30 days.

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