Approximately 101 million people in the U.S. get food stamp assistance and if you are struggling to make ends meet, you could be one of them. This useful form of food aid is available for families, the elderly and the disabled, so long as applicants meet the requirements. One in seven buys food through this program and the average family of four receives $264 per month. According to a 2009 report, one in two children will rely on food stamps before they reach adulthood. If you want the opportunity to whip up wholesome meals and gain financial relief, you ought to learn the basics of food stamp benefits 101.
Food Stamps – Requirements
Food stamps are also referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Eligibility for SNAP depends on your personal circumstances. When applying, your gross and net income will be analyzed. If you are a family with at least one disabled or elderly family member, only net income will be analyzed. The federal government establishes the gross income limits and they are adjusted on an annual basis.
The amount of benefits you receive is dependent on adjusted gross income and household size, after the following deductions have been taken into account:
- 20 percent earned income deduction
- Standard deduction
- Dependent care deduction
- Medical care (elderly or disabled individuals) limited deduction
- Excess shelter care expenses limited deduction
You may be required to participate in a SNAP Employment and Training Program if you are able to register for work.
Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards
If you are accepted for food stamps, an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) account will be set up and an EBT card will be provided to you. Food stamp benefits will be transferred to the account on a monthly basis and purchases can be made at participating grocery stores. Store clerks are trained to assist people with food stamps.
Some items will be exempt from the food stamp benefits 101, such as alcohol, medication, pet food and household items. Accepted purchases include:
- Breads and cereals
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Dairy products
- Meat, fish and poultry
- Seeds and plants for home-grown food
How to Apply for Assistance
SNAP is run by state or local agencies. If you meet the requirements and believe you would benefit from food stamp assistance, you can visit a local Social Security office or find your nearest SNAP office. The application process comprises these three steps:
- Fill out an application form.
- Attend a face-to-face interview.
- Provide proof of income and expenses.