Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – How To Apply

You may not have heard much about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but you have definitely heard of Food Stamps and the program. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is an aid program in the United States of America.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

It is mostly targeted at low-income citizens and also the no-income citizens of the country. This program helps to stretch a recipient’s food budget, encourages the recipient to eat healthy and nutritious food, and also educates a recipient on food nutrition and how to prepare meals.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can also be referred to as SNAP for shorts. It is the program that succeeded in the Food stamps programs. SNAP is still commonly known as Food Stamps in the United States of America. This program is a federal aid program that is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service, FNS, which is under the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA. The program is created to give American citizens access to nutritious foods and push them toward self-sufficiency.

However, this program also provides assistance for the aged mostly above sixty (60) years of age.  The disabled who can barely earn an income, the mentally challenged people who cannot take care of themselves, and those who find it hard to feed themselves.

What Is Supplemental Nutrient Assistance Program?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federal assistance program in the United States that provides eligible low-income individuals and families with funds to purchase food. SNAP aims to ensure that people have access to nutritious food to maintain a healthy diet.

However, the program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the eligibility and benefit amount is determined based on factors such as income, household size, and expenses.

About The Program 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was initially formed as the Food Stamps Program on the 16th of May, 1939. It was operated as a relief program for citizens to enable them access to food mostly in times of war or crisis in the country. The program then gave out stamps, which is where the name of the program was coined, which could be used to buy food. The stamps then gave in two types which are:

  • Orange stamps can be used to buy any kind of staple food.
  • Blue stamps can be used to buy food items that seem to be surplus.

The name Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was officially implemented in 2008. The changing of the names also affected the methods of accessing the benefits. This change brought about the use of EBT cards instead of food stamps and coupons. Now, the SNAP program uses only EBT cards in sending out benefits to eligible recipients.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has grown to become the biggest nutrition program among all the administered nutrition programs of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It has thousands of employees and is a key component of the social safety net for low-income Americans.

SNAP Benefits

There are several benefits to be received from the program. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is no longer restricted to just food benefits. Some of the benefits one can receive from the program are listed out below;

  • SNAP food benefits give out benefits for food. This benefit can only be used to buy food items that are approved by the program.
  • SNAP cash benefits give out cash that can be withdrawn from the cash benefit card and used to purchase items and services.
  • TANF cash help is aid given to families that are in dire need of help. TANF means Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Mostly, these families have children less than fifteen (15) years of age and/ or elderly persons of sixty years and above.
  • Support services is an assistance or benefit from the program that helps to render services of a caregiver usually to elderly people, to people battling with addiction, and also to people with mental issues.
  • Health care is a benefit that aids by giving access to some basic health care services to citizens who cannot afford it.
  • WIC benefit is the benefits targeted at women and children. It makes provisions for WOMEN, INFANTS, and CHILDREN with basic needs and information for a nursing mother. This benefit still gives assistance to children above the age of one.

These are some of the benefits one can get from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Also, know that this program is not available to people outside the United States of America. a foreigner in the country can to an extent, receive benefits from the state. Mind you, there are certain requirements to meet before any person can receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


When talking about benefits and how it is being received, one cannot omit EBTs. EBT means Electronic Benefits Transfer. This is a system that uses magnetically encoded cards to carry benefits from the program to the recipient. This card works exactly like a bank’s debit card would.

It authorizes transactions like withdrawals and payment for purchases of food items by transferring funds from the federal account to an approved store’s account and retailer’s account. The system automatically loads the benefits into the recipient’s EBT account on a monthly basis.

However, there are some items one cannot buy with the EBT card, in terms of using the food benefits. There are some prohibited items a recipient cannot purchase with the cards as it would not validate the transaction. Here is a list of items one can purchase and what one cannot purchase with an EBT food benefits card.

List of Items to Buy and Cannot Buy With EBT Food Benefit 

Approved items are;

  • Cereals.
  • Bread.
  • Snack foods.
  • Non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Vegetables.
  • Dairy products.
  • Meat.
  • Poultry.
  • Fish.
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.
  • Fruits.

Prohibited items are;

  • Medicines.
  • Vitamins supplements.
  • Prepared foods fit for instant consumption (fast foods).
  • Hot foods.
  • Tobacco.
  • Liquor.
  • Wine.
  • Bear.
  • Cigarettes
  • Live animals. This is with the exception of shellfish, fish removed from the water, and/ or animals slaughtered prior to pick up from the store.
  • Nonfood items like pet food, hygiene items, cosmetics, paper products, cleaning supplies, and other household supplies.

Every other item falls under the category of one of the above-mentioned items.

SNAP Eligibility

SNAP eligibility means to be qualified to receive benefits from the program. To become qualified for the benefits of SNAP, there are requirements one has to meet first. The requirements for every state in the U.S. are different from each other. Generally, here are some of the requirements for SNAP Benefits;

  • You are below 130% of the federal poverty line.
  • You must apply to your current state of residence
  • Your income monthly, before the tax deductions, as an individual or as a household must not exceed the maximum income allowed by the state.

Requirements to Meet 

Apart from the applicant’s eligibility, stores and retailers also need to get eligibility from the program in order to be approved to accept EBT cards. For a store or retailer to become eligible, it must meet certain requirements of the program. Requirements like;

  • Its major sales must come from staple foods
  • Co-location; if multiple firms operating in the same location meet certain criteria, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will consider them a single firm when determining eligibility.
  • SNAP does not allow restaurants to participate in the program: If a store derives over 50% of its total gross sales from the sales of hot or cold foods (fast foods), it is considered a restaurant.
  • Need for access; how accessible is the store to areas where SNAP clients are located?

If the store can meet all these requirements or at least most of them, it can become eligible by SNAP to receive SNAP payments.

Applying for SNAP Benefits

Anyone who is an American citizen or a foreigner residing in the United States can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. One has to apply for the program in his or her current state of residence. A person can apply as an individual but in terms of a family or household, only one member of the household should apply on behalf of every other member.

Although one can access the application form on the SANP online portals of the state, some of the states in the U.S. do not allow online applications. Search for the SNAP program online and identify your current state of residence. On the online portals, you would get access to the different locations of the entire local offices in the state. Pick the office nearest to your area of residence.

How to Apply for Supplemental Nutrient Assistance Program

To apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you can follow these general steps:

  • Determine your eligibility: SNAP eligibility is based on factors such as income, household size, and expenses.
  • Gather necessary documents:  These may include identification documents, proof of income (pay stubs, tax returns), proof of residency, and information about household expenses.
  • Find your local SNAP office: Locate the SNAP office nearest to you. You can do this by visiting the official USDA SNAP website or by contacting your state’s SNAP office. Each state has its own SNAP office responsible for administering the program.
  • Fill out the application form: Fill out the form completely, providing accurate and up-to-date information about your household and income.
  • Submit the application: Once you have completed the application form, submit it to your local SNAP office.
  • Attend an interview (if required): In some cases, you may be required to attend an interview with a SNAP representative to discuss your application further.
  • Await a decision: The SNAP office will assess your eligibility based on the information provided and notify you of their decision. This process typically takes a few weeks.

It’s important to note that the application process and requirements may vary slightly from state to state. To ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information, contact your local SNAP office or visit the official USDA SNAP website for specific instructions and resources related to your location.


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