How to Get Food Stamps While Pregnant

May 7th 2016

You can cut back on a lot of things to save money when your budget is tight, but not sufficiently feeding yourself and your kids just isn’t an option. Fortunately, there are a few places you can turn to for extra help, but you need to know what’s covered and how to navigate the system.

The Basics

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Food stamps and WIC are completely separate programs, although both are similar in that they have income limits and other eligibility requirements. Food stamps are now also called SNAP, an acronym that stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, and provides vouchers for specific nutritious foods for pregnant women, infants and children up to age five.

Where to Go

Getting food stamps unfortunately isn’t always an easy or quick process. Food stamps are distributed by state governments, so you’ll need to look for the location of the state office that administers them where you live. The name of the agency varies by state, but in general, you can find it if you look for the Department of Health and Human Services.  

How to Apply

Many states have online applications for social services, including food stamps and WIC. If your state does not offer online applications or if this option doesn’t work for you, paper applications are available at the agency office. The application for these services is usually lengthy and will ask a lot of detailed questions about your family and financial circumstances. Plan to allow about an hour to fill out the application forms. To speed up this process, you'll want to have all relevant forms ready before you begin filling out the application. Some of the information you’ll need for it includes the following:

  • Birth dates and Social Security numbers for all members in your household
  • Paternity information for your children
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Information about income and assets
  • List of all expenses
  • Bank accounts
  • Car ownership records
  • Housing records
  • Investment records

Food Stamp Details

Food stamp, or SNAP, benefits are based strictly on income eligibility. Some states have requirements that limit the amount of assets you can have, including cars above a certain value. The amount of income that qualifies for food stamps depends on your state and family size.

If you are approved for food stamps, the amount of your benefits is proportionate to your income and family size as well. Most people who receive food stamps find that their benefit amount is less than the amount that it costs to buy food for their family for a month, so it's still important to save where you can. 

In most cases, you can buy any food with your food stamps, but alcohol, cigarettes and non-food items are prohibited, and can put a large dent in your savings anyway . States have varying rules about which kinds of prepared foods, if any, you can buy with food stamp benefits.

Food stamps are now usually loaded electronically on a card, like a debit card, which can be used for purchases.

WIC Details

Like food stamps, WIC benefits have income eligibility requirements, but the income limits are larger for WIC, and more families can qualify for this program. However, other factors are taken into consideration for WIC besides just income. Generally, there must be some evidence that a woman or her children are at nutritional risk because of conditions such as low iron or inadequate or excessive weight gain.

Unlike food stamps, WIC benefit amounts are smaller and can only be used for purchasing very specific nutritious foods. The foods included in WIC benefits include specific, low-sugar cereals, cheese, milk, eggs and peanut butter. Breastfeeding women may also receive carrots and tuna, while moms who choose not to breastfeed may receive infant formula.

Emergency Food Aid

There’s usually a waiting period for food stamps, but most states can expedite the process if you are in a situation that qualifies as an emergency, such as having less than $100 in assets. Many communities also have a patchwork of food-related charities that provide food for families in need, which can supplement your food stamps or offer primary aid if you are denied benefits.

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