How to Qualify and Apply for Food Stamps

May 7th 2016

People who apply for food stamps often work closely with caseworkers. Once the state agency has processed the application based on documentation submitted, an approval or denial letter is mailed to the applicant. Applicants approved for the program are typically mailed a debit card and given a monthly allowance to purchase food. Certain restrictions on items that can be purchased may apply.

General Eligibility Requirements

Websites sponsored by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program feature a prescreening tool for individuals and families to determine eligibility for food stamps. Applicants must meet requirements related to income, deductions, employment, financial resources and immigration status. Special rules also apply for the elderly or disabled. In most states, applicants must be employed or actively seeking employment. In addition, immigration status must be verifiable. If an applicant or member of the applicant's household is considered elderly or disabled, age and disability status must be verifiable with documentation requested by the state or federal organization.

Financial Requirements

Applicants seeking food stamp assistance must disclose financial resources when applying for the program. For example, in many states, households can possess $2,250 in countable resources such as balances in bank accounts. Property, lots owned, Social Security income or pension plan balances do not have to be reported as financial resources when applying for food stamps.

Households have to meet income tests to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Income verification is required, and limits are set by the federal and state governments. Income levels often vary based on geographic location, household size and the presence of disabilities in members of the household.

Application Process

Parties interested in obtaining food stamps must apply formally for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by calling the state's SNAP hotline or by visiting the Department of Health and Human Services within the county they reside. Some states offer online applications.

Once the application is processed by the state agency, applicants are assigned a caseworker to conduct an interview in person or over the phone. The caseworker often requests documentation to verify name and address, Social Security numbers and proof of income. Noncitizens must show proof of legal noncitizen status. In some cases, the Department of Health and Human Services may also request documentation detailing housing costs, medical expenses, child and adult care expenses or child support payments made to a custodial parent.


Food stamps provide needed nutrition and fuel for individuals and families who struggle to financially support themselves. Families and individuals must meet income guidelines to be eligible for food stamps as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, funded by federal and state programs. Eligibility requirements may vary by state.

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